Warzone -Novel [Chapters]

Warzone

Here is a quick guide to the chapters of Warzone I posted. I am sorry to say, these are all the current completed chapters. If enough people show interest, I would definitely try to edit it and finish it in a timely manner, but currently it is on the backburner (Or if one person directly pesters me).

I hope you enjoy what I have so far,
And hope you don’t mind my prior creative writing instruction writing. And, It does get more descriptive as it goes, if that coaxes you at all.

May you become as attached to the character I am… and be told, I am most likely going to kill one of the main character off (I’m sorry, thinking logically, it has to happen).

I have to admit, as I was posting these, I was having a hard time not reading all the chapters again… I ended up reading a full one of the chapters by accident without realizing it.

-Paro (A. A. Teto)

Warzone -Chapter 8 [War]

Jonathan

Marching, snowflakes quietly fell to the ground. My heart pounded. My peripheral vision was lost—sight narrowed. Fear was the only thing keeping my mind away from the cold that bit at my fingers and face. I tried to keep my breaths steady and through my nose, knowing the steam that would rise from mouth in stressful breaths. The men surrounding me seemed unfazed. I would not be the one man to falter.

Each second seemed to last an eternity. The darkness consumed the world. The moon lit up our path, showing the many falling crystals. Fog crept around our feet, slithering up our legs.

Knowing that our destination was still a distance away, I began to distract myself.

My mind filled with a memory at the military camp. Trying my hardest to keep up with the many other men, my scrawny body kept me behind. Sweat engulfed me as I pushed myself to my limits.

      Climbing the rope, my fingers would no longer grasp and I fell, landing directly on my butt. Klaus began to yell at me, telling me about how weak I was and how I would never last. He tried to convince me to just give up already; I was nothing—and never would be.

      As I stood up, he shoved me out of the way so the next man could try, making me tumble once again. Almost hitting my face, I caught myself with my hands. As I panted pathetically on the ground, trying to get my breath so I could get up, a hand reached out. It was Shadow’s.

      He was to be the next to try and climb. Helping me up, Klaus released his anger in his words. Shadow was supposed to be climbing the rope.

      “The weakest usually becomes the strongest.” Shadow said. His face was blank, but I could feel the gentle nature and smirk hidden through his military façade.  

      The memory helped to keep me strong and determined, unwilling to falter. Shadow might not have been with me, but his words and strength were. I would live to prove him right—the weak could become strong.

As the flakes of snow grew, we reached our destination.

Many orders were barked, telling us where to be and what we would do. The enemies were estimated to be there in an hour. I was on the front lines.

Evan

“You’re awake? That is marvelous—must say I doubted it.” Dr. Rodreiph said.

I slowly slid myself to a sitting position. I cringed. There was still pain from the bullet, but in general, my condition had greatly improved.
“How long was I out?” I asked, not looking forward to the response.
“A day or so, not long at all.” Preoccupied with whatever he was working on at his desk, he didn’t even look at me as he spoke.
I eased myself out of the bed; still, Dr. Rodreiph didn`t seem to even give me a second glance. Taking advantage of the situation, I snuck out of the ward.
The camp was silent: there was no yelling from instructors, shuffling of feet, arguments between soldiers, or the sound of food being devoured. Were they stupid enough to take on Illuma?

The door of the medical ward swung open and Dr. Rodreiph yelled “Robert left this for you!” He ran the slight distance to me and held out a pile of stapled pages. I briefly glanced at it.
“You aren’t trying to stop me?” I asked suspiciously.
“I couldn’t if I wanted to. Plus, there is a war going on. We need you. Sadly, those other buffoons are useless in comparison to you. Even without Shadow I’d rather you protecting me than any of them. Luckily, you do have Shadow, so I’m not too worried.” He blathered.

“You should be.”

“Illuma? I’m not sure she’s the one to worry about. She’s merely a pawn.”

I grunted and began to look over the pages. They were filled with pictures and ancient lithian. As I got to the last page I found something I could understand:

      Evan, I’ve found possible proof of a living member of the royal family. And, he or she was recently with Louie; by choice or forced, I am unaware. The main thing is to find this person and get him or her to translate these pages. I believe he or she is the key to defeating Illuma.

      “Dr. Rodreiph, you said there was a war. Is that where Jonathan is?”

“Yes, and not to be rude, but I don’t think we stand much of a chance in this war. We still have men who went to deal with Harkin’s bases—all of our competent soldiers.”

Now I would just have to trust Jonny to keep himself alive while I achieve my mission.

“Shadow, does he have a piece of you? Or does he still have the stone?”

“He has the stone.”

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

“I will pray a little more for him.” Shadow said quietly.

“Do that.”

“We will hope you’re mother was right. For if there is a God, he is sure to listen to our prayers… or she I suppose.” Shadow muttered.

Elise

I jolted awake. How could I have fallen asleep?

I analyzed my surroundings. Everything seemed the same as it was as I fell asleep, other than the beam of light coming from the window. Untangling myself from the blankets I rose from the bed and went to look outside.

Most of the sky was invaded by dark grey clouds, while a small patch was pure blue. My heart skipped a beat: there was a very faint bit of rainbow. I hadn’t seen one since I was little. It had seemed like a childishly altered memory. I had convinced myself they were a myth, but there it was. Seemingly a mere mirage it stared at me.

A knock on the door woke me from my reverie.

A monstrous like voice came from the other side of the door, “Elise?” My heart began to race. I recognized it. It was Thorin.

Jonathan

The sound of gunfire was deafening. Dust filled the air blinding us all. Every couple minutes another bomb was dropped flinging debris in every direction. Darkness consumed most of the area for black clouds devoured the sky. My eyes were dry and stinging while my ears rang. Adrenaline pumped through me with my racing heart.

Robert looked over at me.

“Do it boy. I believe in you.”

I tried to take deep breaths, but they were cut apart by panic. After a few more attempts I got them calmer—by no means perfect though.

As I ran everything seemed to slow down. I could feel each time my feet slapped the dirt, hear every heartbeat, explosion and bullet, smell the dust and the sweat of each man or woman and see everything that was happening around me.

Evan

“Where are they all?” I asked Shadow.

“My estimates based on past locations and situation would indicate that Swift and Elise are at the old palace. Jonathan, I am unable to calculate his present location.”

I jumped onto one of the motorcycles and began to pump the throttle.

“Make sure to protect my head.” Then, I was off.

“Do you intend to find the member of the royal family?” Shadow asked blankly.

“Yes, but Elise and Swift first.” My eyes glued to where I was headed as I spoke.
“You knew them before I joined you, didn’t you.” He asked innocently.

“Yes.” I responded matter-of-factly.

“You were close.” He dug.

“With Elise, yes.” Quickly, I interjected.
“And Aria?” He questioned.

“Swift.” I corrected.

“You were close with her too?”
“No.”

“Then why are you so obsessed with her safety?” Confusion brought up his pitch.

“I promised I’d keep her safe.” I said simply.
“And what if you have to break that promise to defeat Illuma and keep everyone else safe?” Shadow seemed honestly curious.

“I’ll find a way. I promised.” I said the words, but slightly doubted them.

“How long is a promise valid?”

There was a simple answer. “As long as you can keep it.”

“Then if it is the choice between Jonathan and Aria for instance, you would still save her because of this promise?”

I didn’t respond.

As we rode, the silence was uncomfortable. Why would he suggest such a thing? Of course I’d be able to save them both. I was a masterpiece after all: indestructible.

“I think you have proven otherwise. You are still quite vulnerable.”

“I’m not dead.”

He went silent.

Finally, the castle was in sight. I slowed down and hid the bike amongst the ratty bushes.

“Are you ready?” I asked.

“Always.” Shadow responded.

Silently I travelled among the shadows, seeking all entrance points. There were many windows, but the shutters were tightly closed. Circling the building, nothing was easy, until I found the one open window.

“I don’t think she’s in danger. And, I don’t believe it would be in Illuma’s interest to kill Swift. Jonathan is the one that needs help.”

I finally snapped, “Would you shut up!”

Within moments, Illuma was outside, right in front of me staring me down.

“Hello, Evan. What are you doing?”

Like lightning, I grabbed my gun and pointed it at Illuma. She looked at it blankly.

“I don’t think that will do you much good.” Her voice was empty.

Finger reaching for the trigger, Illuma’s hand became a dagger and struck the gun from my grasp. Trying to react, her hands melted around my wrists and neck, threatening me.

“You’re mind is too cluttered. It isn’t sharp enough.”

Another pair of footsteps erupted as Harkin came out from the palace. His steps were forceful.

“Well, Evan, isn’t it lovely to see you—especially with her hands around your neck. Oh, and look, no Jonathan to be seen. How are you going to get out of this? Or, did I finally beat you, my old friend?”

Harkin

This was juicy. I think I was starting to like Illuma. Her mindless loyalty, obedience and endless power left me in complete supremacy. I had been waiting all my life for such a state. Soon, I would have all I could ever want.

Watching Evan defenseless, I couldn’t help but smile. Oh, what a momentous day.

“Just like a vermin in a mouse trap.”

Shadow left Evan’s face blank, but I was very imaginative: I could see his enraged face.

Louie came from behind me. I suppose I wouldn’t have all the power; oh yes, I had to share. Fortunately, he wasn’t one for power. His fixation was freedom—complete and utter freedom.

“Illuma,” Louie started, “Get him away from her. Lock him away somewhere. We can’t have him meddling.”

“Then why not just kill him now?” I asked.

“I want him to suffer. I want him to feel the incarceration he forced upon me. Then, I want to see him suffer, suffer like I did.”

“Illuma, just kill him, no need to wait” I ordered.

“No, Wait!” Louie followed.

Illuma pulled her one hand off Evan’s neck. Pulling her arm back she struck, straight to his heart. But, before it could hit, something flew toward her, making her dash away.

“What the hell was that?” I yelled.

“I won’t let you do that, Harkin.” The voice was coming closer. And, I knew that stupid voice, I could recognize it anywhere.

Jonathan wore a large mischievous grin. “Didn’t expect that, did you?”

“Jonathan, why aren’t you at war?” Evan sounded genuinely surprised.

“Robert cooked up a scheme to get me out. It was definitely risky, but I seemed to have survived.” Jonathan laughed. “Wait, were you actually worried? Dude, I thought you didn’t care about anyone.” He began to Guffaw.

Illuma slowly came from the bushes and trees, keeping a distance from the stone laying at Evan’s feet.

“Jonathan,” I raised my gun. “Do you actually think it would be that easy?”

Standing there, he wore his stupid look.
Illuma slowly walked in between Jonathan and I.

“Illuma, what are you doing?”

“Swift, she… she made me move.” Illuma said hesitantly.

“Well, get out of the way, you seem to have control now. Now shoo!”

What a nuisance, that had better have been a onetime occurrence. But, wait, she still wasn’t moving.

“Get out of the way!”

“She has been over medicated. I do believe I have miscalculated with my edits to her mind. But… I do not believe she is on their side either. She appears to wish no harm to Jonathan, but…” Her voice then began to change in tone. It was more serious, and lower with a deep rage. “Harkin… Harkin, Harkin. Concequences, concequences. Harkin, do you believe in karma?”

“Why would I. What a thing to waste your time on.” I laughed. The silly girl was planning to try out revenge.

“Well, I don’t either, but I do believe in payback.”

“Isn’t it called revenge my dear, and don’t your sort usually condemn that sort of thing, little girl” I went in closer. My fingers crawled to grasp around her chin.

“You feeling brave, little girl? You feel confident?”

Illuma’s green eyes pierced with Swift’s anger. I ignored it. I had a stone. She wouldn’t be able to control Illuma for long.

“Illuma…” Interjected Louie.

“Quiet!” Swift roared.

“Aria, do you really feel the need to kill him? Don’t you think that a bad plan?” Was my brother actually worried for my life? Didn’t he know I had a stone?

“Why would I? And why not you too, and…” She pulled her face from my grasp and spun her head to look to Shadow and Evan, “maybe they should join too.” Her eyes dove back towards me. “Their death toll is about the same as yours.”

Her fingers gripped my chin, “And, little boy, no, I don’t condemn that sort of thing.” She pulled up her fist. “I find it exhilarating”. Her fingers melted into a dagger and they plunged towards my rain covered forehead, where stray hairs clung.

Elise

I kept silent, looking around for anything I could use as a weapon.

“Elise.” His voice was guttural and vulgar, making my own name sound foul.

On the nightstand table, there was a golden candlestick. I ran for it, grabbing it, for my life depended on that heavy piece of decor.

A deep breath creaked outside the bedroom door.

“My name…” His words were as labored as a mouth full of peanut butter, “My name is Thorin, Thorin Corbeau.”

My mouth slowly opened, and my hands almost dropped the candlestick.

“Corbeau.” Once I realized, I covered my mouth, as if it would cancel the word.

“You’re… There.” In his deep beastly voice, I could hear sadness. But, he had attached me, so I remained quiet.

“Please… You’re… there.”

I took a deep breath.

“Don’t think I’ll let you in. You can’t be trusted. You’re violent and vicious.” I barked.

“Shadow, he… he helped me… fake… the potion… the chemical, making me… like this.” There was a struggle with every word.

“So, you’re trying to convince me, that the monster who tried to kill all my allies is actually an ally, but not just that, but a Corbeau? That he is one of royal blood?” I went to the window, looking to see how long of a drop. There was no way I’d trust him.

“And… a brother…”

My heart began to race, my eyes wide. “Wha… Wait, what? You’re claiming that you are our brother, Swift and mine?”

He took a moment. “No. I… am yours… only.”

A large clank reverberated through the room as the candle stick scratched the marble floor.

Robert

We were losing. Corpses of many allies filled the uneven ground, covered in dust and dirt. Their blood mixed into mud. My ears were ringing from explosions, my uniform covered in blood: mine, my allies’ and the enemies’. Why? Why! My muscled burned, rusted, overused, and tensed from fear.

Swift

A green stone was thrown, making Illuma fling from me. I stood there, still holding onto Harkin’s chin, fingers drawn together, pointed towards his forehead. His large hand held onto my wrist, his other, a gun.

“Bye-bye, little girl.” Time slowed as I saw his finger pull the trigger, drips of water falling from the gun and the skin of his hand. The sound of the bullet left my ears ringing as my hand slowly loosed, he released his grasp and I plunged to the ground, a puddle splashing from impact. I watched as blood begins to spread through the fibers of my shirt. My vision slowly blurred around the edges as it pulsed, until I no longer saw. Vision blank, I heard two distant yells: “Aria!”, “Swift!”

Illuma

There was an emptiness inside me. I stared at Swift’s body as I heard gunfire, but I didn’t pay attention to who shot who, my eyes were stuck on the motionless body of Swift. I walked toward her, rain gathering and dripping from my chin, fingers, nose and ends of my hair. I put my hand on the wound, seeping into her body. Using the knowledge I gathered, I attempted to close the wound with pieces of myself, and make her organs continue their function. I began to cover every cell in her body, attempting to reanimate her body. I flexed her heart, guided blood through her veins, kept her lungs drawing air in, squeezing it out.

Weak, she seemed to be barely holding on. I made her stand up, looking at the surroundings. I picked up a few pieces of moist paper on the ground. No one was there. I carefully peeled the pages apart, analyzing. One phrase stared at me: Aut travross l`obscuro, approtis-t`en ot ro lumigh op chatsie ros téndobres. Even with the knowledge of so many, I was at a loss. What did it mean. And, next to it was a small stamped raven.

Looking up to the castle, Thorin stood there. What was he doing? He appeared to be doing nothing, how strange. When did he get there? Slowly, as to cause minimal damage to Swift’s body, I joined him, standing beside him. “What a strange world.”

Thorin looked down. I noted, his eyes were beginning to look more human. “Yeah.”

A mixture of rain and snow fell from the sky.

Thorin looked to the pages in my hands. A strange gasp came from him.

“Do you know this page?” I asked, passing him the page with the strange words.

“Yes. I… wrote that.”

“You speak this language?”

Aut travross l`obscuro, approtis-t`en ot ro lumigh op chatsie ros téndobres… Yes… Esk vom languad op naïth.” He said, it being strangely fluid for him.

“May I touch you?”

He flinched.

“I wish to learn.”

Hesitantly, he put out his hand. I grabbed it with its many scratches and marks. I slowly melted my hand beneath his skin, stringing myself to his brain, where I proceeded to learn ancient lithin, zom languad op naïth, his first language.

Pulling my hand back I said, “You are more than you seem, Thorin Corbeau.”

The door burst open from behind us.

“Thorin! What the hell are you doing! Help us.” Harkin, drove a needle into his arm, emptying its contents. Thorin’s eyes slowly returned to their previous state, and he made a beastly roar that burned the air and he ripped the soggy pages.

      To cross the dark, bringest thee out of the light and chastise the shadows. That was the phrase. But, what did that mean? It seemed to be something from an old text, a tale that Thorin was read as a child. The story was about the animal of their family, the raven. Their word for it was corbeau, thus their last name. The story went like this:

Aut temt qo temt ri maït, ros corbeaux attas bhlite, coïme ro noiw—maït ros lumigh.

      At the time time was made, ravens were white, like the snow—made of light.

      Rols attas dos protighs.

      They were our protectors.

      Maut, qhuen ros jouws op nuiht plut tendobros op whuan wos maïtos troï tendobres, Maugroïn ha sidt ta ro corbeau “Aut travross l`obscuro, approtis-t`en ot ro lumigh op chatsie ros téndobres”.

      But, when days and night were darkest and we had created too much evil, Maugroïn said to the raven ” To cross the dark, bringest thee out of the light and chastise the shadows”.

      Op tha ri qu’est corbeau feighta. Ro Corbeau approtis-luim`en ot ro lumigh. Ro Corbeau Pruïk ros téndobres, beigh noïch, po seigh ros tendobres soiso travrosso.

      And that is what raven did. Raven brought himself from the light. The Raven took the shadows, becoming black, so that the shadows could be passed.

 

Elise

“Thorin.”

Thorin stood in front of me, his eyes ablaze with a savagery I’d never seen in a man’s eyes. But, just a moment ago, he had spoken to me almost like a human. Was it all a trick?

“My dear, what is that look?” Harkin looked from me to the beast and back. My eyes remained unable to detach their focus from the strange being. Did I have a brother? I could.

“What is this?”

“Elise. Run.” The voice belonged to Illuma. Behind Harkin, she stood motionless, staring at me.

A large beastly roar exploded from Thorin’s lips, a war cry.

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Warzone -Chapter 7 [Illuma]

Swift

“I hear empathy doesn’t exist much anymore. People only care about money. They have their priorities straight.

Now, if we could only get rid of love, we’d be good. It is so irritating when people get in the way of family or friends. There was this one old man, he was even knighted, and he just got in the way when I was trying to kill your friend Jonathan. And now, I won’t probably get the pleasure. I get to leave that to you.

I raised my gun and shot, grazing Harkin’s ear.

“How dare you!” I shrieked.

“Ah, I see you might already be angry enough,” he said, unfazed. “Illuma, come out.”

Slowly emerging from the behind the bushes was a beautiful woman. Her hair was long glossy and black. Her face was flawless and symmetrical, eyes a vibrant green, and lips pale, yet still a lovely pink. She wasn’t wearing anything, but because of what she was, it didn’t seem to be a problem. Her whole body had the appearance of a mannequin, her skin like porcelain.

“Hello, Aria. It is wonderful to meet you. I am Illuma; I will be sharing your body.”

Her voice was soft and sweet, but it did still have a bit of an echoic quality, like that of Shadow.

She eased her way over to me. Once fairly close, she bowed. Watching her hair fall, I kept on forgetting that it wasn’t real, it was part of her, but not actually hair.

Reaching out her hand, I didn’t seem to mind her saying my real name. I found myself mesmerized, my anger melted away. My hand floated up. Our fingers touched, and she began to slowly cover my hand like a glove. Soon, she encased my whole body.

“I am sorry; you will not be able to think for a little while. I will be borrowing your vessel. We will be one.”

My thoughts began to vanish, leaving my mind blank, other than the words she spoke, “I will be analyzing all of your memories and emotions you have had. I will be the new you, until the time in which I am to leave.”

I soon felt as if I had fallen asleep, no longer in control of my mind or body. Everything felt like a dream from that moment on.

I was Illuma.

Jonathan

“Hey, Shadow, what are you doing?” I ran over to Shadow. He was analyzing something in his hand.

“What are you looking at?”

Peering over his shoulder, I saw two necklaces. On the one was an embossed dragonfly. The other was a small replica of his left pistol. If I recalled correctly, his left gun was from his grandfather. I was unsure to whether it was his mother or father’s parent.

Clasping his hand shut, he put them into his pocket.

“Just some mementos.” he said hastily. Turning around, he looked at me, “What do you need?”

I stood there lamely. Abruptly, I got my attention back.

“There has been a sighting of Shadow near Dieth, a ghost town about a day’s walk north of Finalei.”

“Luckily,” Using mostly his right hand, he buckled his holster around his hips as he answered snidely, “We don’t have to walk.” Now, he put a strap across his chest to hold the saber.

Like he had been since the change in armor, he began to cough violently. This time I saw a slight bit of blood as he pulled his hand away. Before I could comment, he spoke, most likely so I wouldn’t, “Let’s go.”

He strode out of the building. After letting out an exasperated sigh, I followed.

“Was there any more information? What was he seen doing? Who was he with?” He drilled.

“He was seen with a woman with long black hair, the man wasn’t sure what they were doing. From what he saw, they were just talking and then went into the forest again. Maybe Shadow found himself a girlfriend.”

All I got out of him was a grunt.

“Jealous?” I teased. As I expected, he didn’t reply and we were off to find a vehicle. Robert was going to drive us.

“Are you sure it’s smart to just rush in without any backup? We don’t know what they’ve been up to,” Robert asked desperately.

“We are not rushing in.” Shadow declared. As I could tell he wasn’t going to divulge any more information, I did.

“We’ll be seeing if we can deal with the situation. If not, we’re running out of there as fast as our big old vehicle can. Then, we’re figuring out how to avoiding getting beaten up.”

“Alright, as long as Shadow and you don’t decide to be heroes, I’d rather see you cowards than dead.” he said in all seriousness.

“Yeah, same here.”

Being alive was quite enjoyable, and I was determined to see if I could still convince Elise to go on a date with me one of these days. It would be a challenge, but one I accepted.

Shadow didn’t say a word. Back to his grumpypants demeanor, he went into the vehicle and waited for us.

Evan

For Elise’s sake, I hoped Swift was alright. I doubted she was dead, but who knew what they were doing to her.

Jonathan was talking, but I ignored him. My mind was somewhere else. The wound in my side was still not healed. I had not showed anyone, and was trying to deal with it myself, but it had become infected. And, for some reason, the black suit I had to wear under the metal was making it worse. I was beginning to wonder what it was made of. A rash had begun to spread over my whole body. In some spots it had rubbed enough that my skin was almost gone. After today’s adventure, it would be. Luckily the bandages over my wound eliminated the material from touching it.

The whole situation was making me more irritable than usual. This was the first time I questioned whether I would win, or even live to see myself lose.

Ever since Swift had come, my luck had become rotten, making my skill moot. When we got her back, I would make sure she got sent back home. She had become a nuisance and an obstacle.

Now, a slight distance from the site the man had spotted them, we hid the vehicle and charily made our way over.

As expected, they weren’t there, but I did find one of Swift’s kelly green hair elastics.

“She’s been here,” I announced.

“How do you know it’s hers?” Jonathan asked as he grabbed it.

I ignored his comment, and quietly grabbed the sword from its sheath and stalked. They had to be near.

All three of us used trees as cover and began to search vigilantly. With success, we heard a few voices. Circumspectly, I tried to figure out where and who the voices were coming from.

I ascertained that one was Louie’s, another was Harkin’s. The distance muffled the words, making it impossible to figure out what they were saying.

Once close enough, I stopped and eavesdropped.

“Come on, she’s ready. And, I’m getting tired of waiting. I’m starving for revenge. If we take much longer, I might just have to start inflicting it already. I would so love to see some blood on my sword. Of course, I wouldn’t mind seeing it pool on the ground from a gunshot, that would be equally satisfying.” The voice had to be Harkin’s. I would recognize his slimy tone anywhere.

“We need to make sure she’s loyal. She needs to see us as the allies. Who knows if that wretch’s mind disobediently held onto any emotions after the medication? It should have stopped her body from producing the useless emotions that might mess everything up, leaving her advanced, like us. But, I need to do some more tests. The last thing we want is for her to turn on us. Yes, I am confident my concoction worked perfectly, but I must assure that.” Judging from the voice, it was Louie.

Harkin began to cackle, “Oh you clever toad, you got Shadow to tell her it enhanced her.”

“Do not call me a toad. They are repulsive and filthy beasts.” Louie said apathetically.

They began to walk off, and I followed, making sure I would not be seen or heard. A distance away, Jonathan and Robert did the same. They knew to keep out of my path.

“Illuma, it is lovely to see you awake and well. Is her body still serving you well? Any problems?”

As I glanced around the tree, I saw her. It was Illuma.

“None at all, her mind is quite intriguing. I have learned many things from her. Though, I do find it odd how, observing her mind and memories, she has changed so much within a few days before we became one. When I let her feel, she is much different. But, from what I have seen of your minds, I have assessed she was corrected.”

I began to cough loudly, wasn’t that perfect.

In moments, all eyes were in my direction. Behind the tree, they couldn’t see me, but they knew I was there.

“Stay here, I shall look for you.” The echoic voice belonged to Illuma.

In moments, she was in front of me, analyzing. I waited to strike her with my sword.

“You look much like Shadow. I assume you are Evan. May I see within you?” She asked politely.

She came towards me. Close enough that I couldn’t swing the sword; she gently placed her hand on my right arm. Her eyes matched the hair elastic. They were staring up into mine.

“I understand.”

Louie and Harkin were now on either side of me, guns in hand. On my right was Louie, aiming towards my shoulder strategically. He knew my one spot of vulnerability from a bullet. He did design the armor.

“But they lied to him. This may be keeping your heart and lungs functioning. It helps your heart beat, which would stop without it. If it weren’t for Shadow and this, you would have died long ago. Your heart would have just stopped, unable to beat. Your lungs do not have the strength on their own to keep bringing in air. But, the black material is made of a substance that humans cannot tolerate for a very long period of time. It is Gheishure, a black substance that can be woven to appear like a thick plastic with rubber like texture.” Her voice was soft, but I remained skeptical. She was a creation of Louie’s after all.

“Illuma, he is evil, you must not touch him.” Louie said like a priest speaking to an altar boy. And like any good altar boy, she listened and believed them.

“I say, you should make him your first. Let him be the first bit of evil you smite.” Harkin said, as a smile crept across his face.

“If you wish, Master Harkin.” Her voice was empty.

She raised her hand. Her fingertips melted together, sharpened, and turned shiny and silver, like a blade.

“Wait. My dear, he is one of those that are meant for last.” Louie’s voice was as emotionless as hers: creator, like creation.

A few bullets flew towards Harkin and Louie. Illuma stopped them with ease. Shadow had never been that fast. For a moment she was unable to move from the vibrations, but much faster than Shadow ever managed, became mobile again, moving her arms back down.

“What about them? Are they to be saved for last as well?” She asked.

Louie responded, “Yes. For now, we must go. I think you are ready. As you can see, they have declared war against you, and you must respond against their people—much like a king, you target his nation, and you wait to decide what to do with him once you have won the war.”

She nodded.

“It is time. I will annihilate every last one.”

Right before my eyes, she began to grow. The Corvelon brothers ran. Harkin cackled the whole way. As she transformed, it was not a larger form of her, but a beast.

Like silver slime, her arms became legs, and her legs changed into those of a tiger.

My heart began to race. I couldn’t seem to get enough air.

An acrid smell like coins and blood overwhelmed the air. As it enveloped, my nostrils burned and a coughing fit engulfed me. Blood covered my hands, adding to the wet sweat on my right.

As she continued to grow, the trees bent like sheets of paper, crumpling beneath her large feet. They shrieked cracking and smashing into the ground. The crows and ravens that hid in the branches exploded from the trees, flying away as fast as they could.

Rain began to fall, getting thicker and thicker. My temperature dropped as I stood, staring at her becoming bigger yet, until her foot was close to as big as me.

She brought her face above me, breaking the tree that stood behind me like a twig. Baring her teeth, her face pulled and distorted. One of a tiger emerged. My eyes were glued, as my feet refused to respond. Fur grew from her whole body. The silver then slowly changed to orange, white and black. The bright colour burned next to all of the dull browns, grays and greens that overwhelmed.

A large roar reverberated, overpowering the deafening sound of rain. Illuma’s still green eyes were transfixed on me. As they did, time seemed to stop. All noises became blurred, inaudible to me.

The beast’s shoulders rose and fell, her breath moving my hair and tickling my arm along with the rain. But, if she was a living metal, why would she need air? Was she becoming more than Shadow ever was? Did she synthesize her own personal lungs, heart and organs so she could feel human? To respond the way she did, she must have needed a human. I knew Shadow couldn’t shape-shift the way she did without one. Was that where Swift was? Was Aria inside that thing?

In moments, she was gone, trees flattened along her path.

I stood stunned and frozen. As I came to fully understand the situation, my toes and fingers were numb. Jonathan and Robert had come from their hiding spots. They stared at me.

“How are we going to deal with that? That is a rather big problem.” Jonathan stated.

“We need to find Shadow, that’d be the only thing I could think of. Anything else, I doubt it would stand a chance. It being that big, I’d bet you’d need a lot of swords to stun it. And, who knows what you’d do if you even managed that. I’m thinking, we should get back-up, and then go find Shadow,” said Robert.

“He’s close.”

I began to run in the direction the Corvelons had fled. I would find him.

“Wait! Shadow!” Jonathan yelled after me.

“I am Evan, not Shadow.”

Robert

“Jonathan, you follow him. I’ll go and tell Soul what’s happening.”

“Will do. Good luck.”

He ran off, and I dashed back to the rover and began to drive as fast as I could, my windshield wipers flying back and forth. I prayed it wouldn’t turn into hail, snow or sleet—it was cold enough.

I would not let Evan kill himself. He had to learn: he can’t deal with everything on his own. Sometimes help is needed.

As much as I knew that the only chance we had for victory was probably Shadow. I hated the idea of that kid having to be a battery for Shadow. If something happened…

Illuma

As I entered the first town, screams filled the air. Chaos permeated as everyone ran in every direction. Men, women and children searched for their families, as they shouted their names. Trying to decide which direction was to safety, they slammed into each other. The people scrambled up from the mud. Everyone was drenched, steam pouring from their mouths in bursts.

The thick grey clouds darkened the air, leaving dimness. Fog was thick in all directions, some dancing at people’s feet.

I was to kill every one of them. But, I wanted to learn, so I had a much greater plan.

From my feet, I expanded; much like the fog, I crept around everyone’s feet. Soon, I began to crawl up the many men, women and children, taking control of their minds and bodies. I analyzed their every thought and memory. I needed more knowledge. From one man, I learned how to be a doctor. Another showed me how to pick locks. Each individual had a different skill that I would have.

They were now all within my skin. If they were to die now, I would not learn what I needed, so I made little holes throughout my body so they could breathe.

I slipped into each house, looking at the small things these people had grown attached to. I wanted that feeling. I needed to find something I would desire like the baseball glove of one boy, and the doll of a girl. Maybe, if I were to find more people, and search more towns, I would find my object.

It was decided, and I was off to find another town. There I would learn more, and find my thing.

Evan

“Shadow, come with me. We have to stop her.”

Shadow stood with his head cocked to the side, eyes wide.

“If I were to stop her, I would be going against Louie. I am to stay here.” As he said it, his arms were crossed; it was a trick he must have learned when I first joined the military.

“Is he really the one you want to follow? You would choose him over me?”

Shadow flinched.

“I can’t choose both?”

“No.”

Shadow stood quiet as he stared blankly in thought. Uncrossing his arms he responded, “I do not know.”

“Shadow, I’ll give you some food for thought. Yes, you’ve known Louie longer, but hey, you’ve spent a whole lot more time with your bud Evan. You like him don’t you? And how long have you been feeling his emotions and such? How much have you seen Louie’s thoughts?” Jonathan asked as he walked up from behind, now standing next to me.

Shadow looked thoughtful, and then responded, “I have never seen his thoughts. I have not been allowed.”

“I think that might be a good sign that you don’t really know him.” Jonathan said as amicable as usual.

The wind was gusting as the rain seemed to fall sideways. I tried to ignore how dizzy I was beginning to feel. The wound on my side had begun to bleed again. My body was also being strained from continually carrying the weight of the metal armor and how the gheishure made the cold more severe on my skin.

“Jonathan, you are right.” Shadow turned to me, “Evan, I will help you. But, I will not destroy her. She is like me. I do not wish to be alone.”

“I understand.”

He strode towards me. Standing in front of me, he placed his hand on my left shoulder. Like butter melting on a pan, his fingers seeped between the fibers of the shirt, those of the fake skin, between the plates of metal and then through the black suit. As his fingers touched my skin he looked distressed.

“He tried to kill you,” he said blankly. “He tried to kill you!” He roared.

Within moments, all his matter was encasing my skin once again, and the metal and black suit had been stripped from my body, leaving me with my military uniform and Shadow.

“I forgot how much I missed your mind.” he said triumphantly, “It’s business time.”

He stretched out from my left arm, grabbing Jonathan. Running like a river, we were off.

Swift

My mind began to slip out of the dream state. I even opened my eyes, but I saw nothing. Was I blind? To top that, my whole body felt as if it was in a sarcophagus, but I couldn’t even move my toes.

The sense that seemed to be usable was smell. So, I sniffed like my life depended on it. What did I smell? There was rain, and what seemed to be coins.

It was then I realized I hadn’t tested my speech. My mouth could move, I could talk, and this was amazing. So, I did the only thing I had left, I yelled out.

“Where am I? Someone help!”

The soft voice I knew as Illuma’s responded, “Hello Swift.” It let me be reminded where I was: inside Illuma. “Do not worry, you are safe. Nothing can hurt you. I am protecting you, like I promised to Louie and Harkin.”

“Physically yes, but if I’m in here much longer, I’m going to go mental. I can’t take having so little room, or being blind. I need more than this to be safe.”

She changed the subject, “I am learning. You people know so much. I want to know it all!”

“Wait, what are you doing?” I said in a panic.

“I am gathering people to learn from.” Her voice was as calm as usual.

“But, if you just gather everyone…”

“Silence, someone is coming.” Illuma interrupted.

Illuma

“Shadow, what are you doing here? You were supposed to wait at the house.”

It was odd; I was beginning to feel things. They must have been emotions, and they were very strong. I was unsure which ones they were, but I would learn quickly. I didn’t have the time to deal with him.

I continued to run to the next city. My next destination would be Gitu, then Finlei, the biggest of the cities of Lithin.

“Illuma, you can’t do this! I know you want to learn, but if you take the time to actually learn by doing, and through teachers, it will last longer!” Swift yelled.

She had become a much angrier person since the injection. It felt good. The sensation was like a flame burning within, heating my core, and then a rush, giving me such energy. Maybe, if I were to decipher her brain, I could change her so she would see what I saw, or I could find a way to increase her anger.

I stopped at the outskirts of Gitu. This would give time for the people to be filled with fear, getting their emotions much more fantastic to feel, and for me to get Swift to change her opinion.

I let a part of me seep in through her pores of her head, then through her skull. I then began to use the skill I had gotten from a doctor and cognitive scientist and altered her brain.

It worked quickly. I could feel it. She had begun to understand me, and aided.

Now as I looked down at the many screaming and scrambling people, I knew it would feel so intense. Like the last town, I crept across the ground and slowly encased them all. I made sure to keep slow, as to saver every last sentiment. People were so lucky to feel emotion, and be filled with adrenaline. Oh, how I wished I could be one of them. Maybe, once I had analyzed them enough, I could fully synthesize one, letting me be like them. I could take organs and make them function. My body could be filled with the many different hormones and liquids that flowed through them. What if I were to figure out the chemical manipulation that human bodies did with such ease?

Faster now, I took in every one of them. I needed the answers. Grabbing them, I bumped into buildings, making them fall, and squished a couple others. As I reached for the last one, Shadow stood in front of me. But, he couldn’t stop me; I had the reflexes and mental ability of countless people. He only had one.

“Illuma, you have to stop this,” Evan said.

I just reached around and grabbed the last one. My speed was too much for him. He couldn’t even react. I then ran off. My next destination was Finlei.

Evan

It was better with Shadow, but my wound and rashes were still there. My cough wouldn’t go away. My whole body felt murky and my mind was slow. All sounds were beginning to be muffled, and everything around me was a large blur. It was as if I was submerged underwater, but it contained salt, making my wounds, nostrils and eyes sting.

Shadow directed my body to Illuma, but it used every ounce of my strength. All my muscles had become sore, and burned. As well, I had begun to lose blood. It drizzled down inside of Shadow, down to my toes. More of it came from my coughing fits. How much longer would I last?

Robert

All the soldiers that weren’t at one of Corvelon’s bases were gathered and off to Illuma, even those that had been here for only a little over a week and I had been training. I knew many of them had very little skill, and had tried to convince Soul to leave them here. I doubted they would be much help.

Soul was determined that all we needed were some well placed explosives, but I had my doubts, and if it did destroy the metal, I didn’t want to see them accidently kill Evan. Soul was careless enough, it could happen. He tended to forget that people were the same as him; he lacked empathy. That was probably one of the main reasons he had managed the post he did. Though, when he had first gotten it, he hadn’t been so cold. It came as he refused to pass on the job.

Elise

The rain thundered on the windows and the wind shook the shutters. Storms like this hadn’t happened in ages. We had been having a never ending dry spell. That was why the grass and lush plants hadn’t managed to revive themselves after the large war seven years ago, or even after the smaller ones in the last few months.

It was hard to see anything out my window through the dense fog. It gave an ominous feeling that made a shiver dash up my spine. Something was wrong.

As I stared at the water drizzling down my window, I prayed for Swift’s safety.

I was startled by my door opening. It was Louie Corvelon. His curls were flattened by the intense rain, and his light shirt clung to his skin, slightly transparent. The glasses on his nose were covered in rain droplets. Even so, I found him very nice to look at, but I couldn’t let my mind go there. He was one of the ones responsible for Swift’s capture.

“What are you doing here? Where is Swift? What did you do with her?” My voice was loud and stern.

“I can bring you to her, but for now, you need to get out of here. You are in danger, and need to come with me.” Even though his chest was rising up in down quickly, his voice was calm and measured.

“You can bring me to Swift?” I asked quietly.

“Yes.” He sounded confident.

“But how am I supposed to trust you?” I asked suspiciously, as much as I just wanted to say yes and follow him. I needed to find Swift, to see her safe.

“Of course, you shouldn’t trust me. But, you need to know, it wasn’t me who took your sister, it was Harkin. I tried to convince him otherwise…. Know that I am trying to help. I want you to be with your sister.” He sounded honest. I believed him.

I grabbed my coat and followed into the thick rain that quickly drenched me. Many strands of hair stuck to my face as I ran to follow him.

Swift

My mind was a frenzy of rage. A flame circulated and made its rounds through my veins. I was in so deep that I began to be the anger. Now, I knew, this was me. All these years, I sought who was me, and now, with the help of the lovely Illuma, I had it.

As she used my body I felt absolute power. This was all mine, all that she did, the intelligence she gained, the adrenaline that soared through my veins, the source of her power. Without me, she would be nothing. She had told me, once a living metal connects with a person wholly, unlike these pawns for knowledge, it was the only person. Without me, her movement would be slowed, and she would be without emotion, as much as she tried to gain it from these miserable souls. Each of them did quicken her, but without me—the core—they would be useless to her.

Illuma had told me about the true medicine they had given me. It was much greater, it helped me find myself. Rage was power. Rage was the soul being freed. I was rage.

Illuma

As I engulfed each last human, I savored the rage that was blazing from Swift. But, I found I could not quite enjoy it the way she did. The adrenaline did not flow through me. But soon, it would.

Within me were now the people of every town of this country. It was time. I now sat in silence, analyzing their knowledge, examining their inner workings. I dove down into their very cells. What made them work the way they did?

As I thought, I began to see many little army men a distance away. Above me was a jet, dropping a bomb. What silly people. That would not hurt me, I ignored it.

It dropped, hitting my back. Every ounce of my substance began to pulse and I could not move. After the bomb had hit me, hundreds of bullets struck from every side, leaving me immobile.

Now I had to look at Shadow, who stood in front of me. Did he think he was better than me?

Harkin now came out from an alleyway behind Shadow, Thorin following him. In other words, I would win after all.

“Well, well, now that you have her unable to move for a minute or so, what do you plan on doing? I’m sorry to say, I am the only one with her weakness, but I do believe it’s Shadow’s too.” Finishing his sentence, he shoved a green stone into Shadow’s back, making him be forced away from Evan.

Evan was weak, unable to stand on his own and fell to the ground. This made a flicker of emotion. What was this? I thought they had gotten rid of all of the useless sentiments Swift’s mind had held, but here one emerged from the depths of her mind. It seemed undaunted by my edit to her mind, or the medication. She had sympathy and admiration for him. Her emotion made me feel the pain that Evan must have felt from his raw red face.

“So, any plans? Oh, and don’t try and shoot me and take it. Thorin here is very good at taking bullets. All you throw, they will do nothing.” Harkin said snidely.

He stared down at Evan in disgust. Rolling him over with his foot, Evan was powerless, practically dead. But, why did I care?

Starting at my toes, I began to be able to move again. I knew I had all the knowledge I needed from these people, and that I was told to kill them, but I couldn’t quite get myself to. They fascinated me too much. So, I did the only thing I could.

Slowly, each person slid from under my protective skin, all paralyzed from shock. They began to realize that they were free and scrambled to their feet. Harkin looked at me with annoyance and frustration.

Rushing around, the people reunited with their families, holding them tightly, weeping and kissing each other’s foreheads and cheeks. The sentiment baffled me. I hoped that once I tried to become human, I would feel this and be kissed on the cheek and forehead, they seemed to enjoy it.

Gradually, I shrank myself down, and then my body went back to its normal shape. I had torn the army uniform. From Swift’s memory, I had learned that it was not alright to be naked in public, even if I did not yet have the parts they hid. Soon I would, so I stretched out my hand. It slithered into one of the houses and grabbed a set of clothes.

Once on me, I could see that it was a dress with paisley and blue, pink and white flowers. It fit nicely.

I noted all of the gawking faces. Knowing the many people I had absorbed, I did not know which of their responses were correct. Was I supposed to enjoy it or feel embarrassed? Now was not the time.

Evan

Jonathan was nowhere to be seen, even though I had thought Shadow had grabbed him. I wished he was here as I tried my hardest to keep conscious. I was worried that if I were to close my eyes, I would die.

My heart and lungs were barely operating, and the air and clothes made my body sting and pound in pain.

Eyes slowly managing to focus, Illuma was standing as close as she could with Harkin holding the stone in his hand. She was looking at me. Was she worried?

“Oh, don’t tell me you feel some attachment to him. Can’t you see, he is just a piece of trash? There is no need to recycle him. He’s been used. It’s time to get rid of him.”

Looking around, no one disagreed. Everyone was staring at Illuma. They didn’t care about my life. Even little Riley didn’t give me a glance, nor did any of the thousands of more men and women. They were staring at Harkin with reverence. What was happening? I knew they didn’t know me, but even the man I stood in front of, trying to stop her from getting to him refused to even give me a glance. I was already trash to them. Recycling was with the past.

What was the point? I seemed to be the only with empathy left. Other than maybe Illuma, but I could already see that Harkin was about to deal with her too. She wasn’t willing to harm or kill anyone, therefore was no use to him. I began to let my eyelids slowly close. Bringing them together, I slowly relaxed.

“Evan! Don’t you dare give up!”

My eyes flashed open, it was Jonathan. Giving Harkin no time to respond, he tore his right gun from his holster and shot the stone from Harkin’s hand. Then, he ran as fast as he could and grabbed the shiny stone from the ground.

Shadow rushed to me and recovered me, protecting me from the elements, and helping my heart pump and lungs move. It wasn’t enough; I was still feeling the effects of the Gheishure.

Jonathan

Illuma stared at me, not saying a word. She was beautiful, but the blank facial expression was creepy. And, just the whole idea of Swift being in her was a little disconcerting. I should have been used to it from Evan, but that stuff never stopped being disturbing.

I pointed my gun to Harkin, and the stone towards Illuma. I couldn’t say how I was going to solve this. Half of my problem was kind of solved. Illuma just vanished in a darkened alley, splashing through puddles as she went. I knew it would be trouble later though. For now, I only had to deal with Thorin and Harkin. I shoved the stone into my pocket so I could focus on them. There was one thing that worried me the most, where was Louie?

“Trying to be a hero? I’m sorry, but I don’t see any way you can win here. Thorin is much stronger than you.”

In the corner of my eye, I could see him begin to slowly get up.

“But, he isn’t stronger than me.”

“Shadow! You have to protect Evan!” I yelled.

Luckily, he listened.

“Oh, someone has gotten feisty. I’m sorry munchkin, not going to happen. You didn’t seriously think that he didn’t have one of those stones too. And, you know what? I have an extra too.”

From his pocket, Harkin grabbed another stone, and ran towards Shadow, who backed away.

“Everyone, you saw that creature that went into the forest? You saw how it took you all out of your homes? Well here is one of those same horrendous creatures. Do you feel comfortable with the fact that two of them are free to roam in your cities and homes? That, they are able to get into your home when the door is locked?” Harkin preached.

The many people nodded, a few yelled and cheered.

“You would feel much better if they were gone, if they were not allowed in your country, wouldn’t you?” Harkin said, as he walked around inside the large circle.

The people cheered louder, more becoming vocal. A police officer walked forward in his blue dress shirt and slacks, badge attached to his black belt, and spoke, “We need them out of our cities, no, out of our country! I need to be safe!”

Another man stepped in front, “I agree, I need to be safe, my family needs to be safe. And, as long as they are here, we won’t be!”

Corvelon began to laugh, “Can’t you see? They don’t want you. You are no longer protecting them, you are endangering them.”

I decided to speak up, “Everyone, you can’t banish Shadow from your country, he has been protecting you for the last seven years. Without him, more of you would be dead!”

A large woman emerged from the crowd, “I would have been fine, I can protect myself, and my family. If these other idiots can’t do the same, then that’s their problem.”

This time, a small boy came out from between the many people, “I say we should get rid of him, he’s garbage now. There is no need to recycle garbage.”

“Everyone, just hear me out. He isn’t your enemy. I can’t say he’s your friend, but he has no reason to harm you. Did you see that other one? She just left. No one was even harmed,” I said, trying desperately to get them to start listening.

“There is always an enemy. And, who might that be? Well isn’t that lovely. We don’t know. Anyone here could be him or her.” Harkin asked satirically. The people didn’t seem to be agreeing with him, but not really against either. I guess this was my chance to be the verbal mastermind. Win against Harkin in a battle of words. This would stay in my book of awesome I had managed.

“Creating an enemy—that is what got us here in the first place. When enemies are created, that’s where conflicts start. Before the war of Jiouth, there was no difficulty with peace. There was no reason for conflict.”

Someone in the crowd yelled out, “But there was a war! There isn’t peace!”

I continued, “Yes, but the war is over. It’s time to repair the damage, reemerge from the ashes.”
“Oh, the phoenix metaphor? How cute. What a pathetic attempt. Of course there is still war! There will always be war. It’s human nature.” Harkin interrupted.

“A war doesn’t begin without a reason. Harkin here is trying to make a reason. If we let him, there will be a war. But, we don’t have to let that happen. We can replenish what we have. Like how seven years ago we began to merge all cities and towns, we can do something.”

“And what are we going to do, wise prophet. This is stupid! There will be war!”

The many people tried to listen, but the rain left them cold, wet and irritable.

Evan began to speak, “Jonathan. We need to get out of here.”

“Why?” I asked as I spun to look at him.

As the only illumination was from the streetlights, there was a slight orange glow to the air. Puddles collected on the pavement trying to find drain pipes, but lingered waiting for their turns. As I stood waiting for an answer I could see my breath. The rain slowly began to turn to snow.

He didn’t answer. That was one of his irritating traits.

Before I could even continue, the people all began to try and get into shelter: shoving by each other, scrambling, and all shivering. Sometimes, I asked myself, “What is the point?” Looking at Evan I only saw Shadow’s face. There was no way to know what he was thinking or feeling. I had become quite adept at figuring it out, but it still irritated me.

It was that moment that I realized; he was looking out for me.

“Duck you idiot!” He yelled. I did, and just in time. As I stood awkwardly, holding onto the back of my head, something shot by. I couldn’t tell in that moment, but as it reached the ground and emerged, I knew right away. It was Illuma.

“Harkin, I can help you. Me and you, we could very easily take control. We need only get to the hub.” Hearing her voice I began to wonder if she was beginning to be more human than robot. Was that scary, or comforting?

“Jonny, we need to go.” Evan said. He was right. There wasn’t anything we could do. All of the people were practically in buildings, hiding from the weather, and we needed to do the same. Plus, Evan needed medical attention, and soon.

Elise

“This is the old castle isn’t it?” I asked.

He nodded as he heaved one of the large embellished doors open. With a quick gesture, he motioned me in, and closed the door behind me.

The inside was enormous with large deep rich red draperies hiding windows all along the walls, and at the end was a large red and gold throne. As magnificent as it all was, it was obvious no one had lived her in years.

“I guess they aren’t here anymore,” I said, disappointed.

“No. I believe they were killed seven years ago.” He said as he began to the other end of the room, towards a door on the right.
“I used to always hope they were still alive, just hiding away in their palace until the right time.” I said, more so to myself.

As he spoke, he turned around to look at me, pieces of hair stuck to his face, “I think we all wished for that.”

I walked over to catch up with him. When I caught up, he continued to walk.

“Why did he bring Swift here? It’s an odd place to choose.”

Once we got into the room he locked the door behind himself with a key. With the click my heart rate rose. How did I manage to get myself in the worst possible position?

“Keep calm. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to do anything to you and there are towels on the side table. I just need you not to meddle, and was getting you away from Harkin and Illuma. Knowing Harkin, violence was imminent.”

I looked back. It was a small little hallway before another room, and like he said, there was a small aged wooden table that had a small drawer and a cupboard with old handles that were rusted. Towels sat on top of it. My gaze went back to him.

“You’re trying to convince me that you’re saving me?” I sniggered. “Last time someone tried to save me the situation merely got worse.”

“It ended well enough. You did get back to your house.”

He was right. I guess I would hope that it would all turn out well again.

“Are there any spare clothes around here, and a room I can change in? My clothes are drenched.” I asked.

“Yes, this way.” He said as he marched past me, showing the way. I quickly grabbed a towel and followed.

Reaching out his arm, he motioned towards a large bedroom with a king sized bed covered in red sheets and a large window covered in more red curtains.

“There are clothes in the closet. You’ll have to see if you can find anything you can use. And, there is a lock on the door. So, if you really need to, you can lock it. Personally, I have no desire to intrude on your privacy. And, feel free to sleep. It’s getting pretty late.”

After entering the room, I closed the door, locking it behind me.

I then began to search through the large walk in closet, sifting through the many exquisite dresses, hoping to find something that I could get into without help. It seemed hopeless until I came across a night gown. Cream with intricate lace, it was exquisite.

I slowly peeled of the wet clothes and dried myself with the large white fluffy towel. The cold bit and I quickly put on the night gown. It was surprisingly warm, but not enough. Searching through the closet, I looked for a jacket or an equivalent. The best I could find was a fur shawl. This was definitely the house of royalty—no cheap sweat shirts or pants to be found.

Easing the door gradually open, Louie was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he wasn’t lying after all: could he have actually wanted to bring me somewhere safer—but why?

Harkin

Power would be mine. It had to happen, it was destined. But, I would change the next part. There was no way I would lose my place upon the top of society. I was a leader—it was where I belonged. Jonathan was silly to try and change these unchangeable citizens. I doubt they would absorb even one of his silly words, they were all ludicrous. He was most definitely wrong, war was imminent; it always was. There was no denying its inevitability.

Through the forest on the dirt trail puddles had formed, splashing under my feet, accompanied by a skiff of snow. The annoying rain had drenched my overcoat and the snow frosted the shoulders. Holding the large collar blocked my ears from the many gusts. Thorin’s flashlight seemed close to useless in the dense fog. We were lucky there was a definite road and I had gone to the palace many times before. It had been my main hideout.

Louie would be there. After getting warmed up from this wretched weather and a good rest, the plan would be in motion. We would use the power of chaos and greed. Maybe we’d even make use of all seven sins: wrath, gluttony, lust, pride, sloth and envy. They were very useful. All the pathetic gullible twits would learn that they needed Louie and me—and if they didn’t, well, they would need the social order we created, or at least the social chaos.

Jonathan

It was the next morning and we’d finally got ourselves reassembled and got a doctor to try and see what they could do about Evan.

“Will you be able to save him?” I asked desperately.

“Maybe, if you let me work!” Dr. Rodreiph exclaimed, hurriedly doing nothing, or at least it seemed to me.

“How long?”

“Get out of here! We’ll send someone to tell you when you can see him again, whether that be barely, fully or not alive. Now, go!”He said as he shoed me out of the building.

Unwilling to do nothing, I went to Robert. He was training the recruits, readying them for whatever Harkin and Louie next planned to do, even though he knew they would be helpless against Illuma. As he barked at them, you could see he was trying to cling onto any hope left for victory.

“Robert, what is our plan? Where do we think they are? Is there anything at all I can do?”

At first he tried to ignore me, but I continued to pester until he finally responded.

“I’m sorry lad, until they launch their next move, we are powerless.” He said.

“There must be something we can do, there is always something.”

Looking rather ponderously he muttered to himself, “Could the stories be true?” He then proceeded to bring me away from the group, motioning Klaus to take over the training. “You may think me crazy, but I think I know what will happen. Come with me.” he said as he brought me to his cabin.

Entering, it seemed like a museum, or a house of a historian: surfaces and walls covered in ancient scrolls and writings. Most of them were in strange symbols, most likely old and ancient Lithian.

“I didn’t know you had your own museum here in the camp.” I joked.

Ignoring me, he went and dug through the pages on his desk until he came across the one he was looking for. Pulling it from his desk his eyes glued to it, he walked towards me. As his eyes went to me, he made me look at the page.

“This is an old prophecy I once came across when I was in Lordenburrow, a city long lost. People haven’t lived there for many hundreds of years, not since before the invasion of Motesians.” Seriousness furrowed his brows and brought down the corners of his mouth as he spoke.

“And what does this so called prophecy say?” I asked.

“Well, I’m not sure. People have guessed and have speculated, but it’s in ancient Lithian, lost to all but the royals, and who knows if any of them are even still alive. Most have deemed them dead, but me, I still keep hopeful.” His eyes were piercing.

“So, what use is it right now then?”

“Well, if you look at the imagery, there are bits that resemble things that have happened, like the giant beast for one. Looking at the next few, it seems things will only get worse, but here, there is a picture of a human with a raven head and wings who seems to be banishing the demons. If we were to find this raven, we may just find the answer.”

“Do we have any ideas where we might find this raven?” As I said it, I began to remember something else, like this ancient script, there was something else that could help: the strange code on the back of the note from Louie.

“Are you okay?” Robert asked.

“I was just thinking.” I then grabbed the note from inside my shirt, opening it up and passing it to him, I asked, “Do you think you could decipher this?”

Quickly snatching it from my grasp his eyes scrolled over the many weird symbols that were placed, seemingly at random on the page.

“It is rather odd isn’t it, but I might just be able to.” He said, eyes not straying.

He dramatically flipped the page and read the note on the other side. As his eyes came up from the paper, he looked at me suspiciously.

“Why haven’t you given this to Soul?”

I laughed nervously, “Good question.”

“Lucky for me you didn’t, but you know everything and anything has to be at least shown to him.” His tone and demeanor were serious.

“So, what does it say?” I asked, trying desperately to change the subject.

“Well…” He turned it back to the strange code and continued to speak, “It seems to be mathematical equations. From what I see, if I were to figure out the code, it might just make a message. But what really caught my attention is that there is some small ancient lithian text at the bottom. I would say it was written by a different individual. The style of lines is quite different. I might start with that, seems much easier to decipher. And, it shows me that there might be someone out there after all that knows the ancient language.”

All of a sudden, an alarm began to shriek. We all knew what that meant: war.

My heart began to pound. I had dealt with rebellions, but never had I been in a real war. “Everyone gather in the east field immediately.” I could tell it was Klaus’s voice.

Seeing my shock, Robert spoke, putting his hand on my left shoulder, “Stay strong. I’ll make sure you’re okay.”

I looked up to him, eyes wide. “I can’t do this. Evan always said he’d be at my back…”

He grinned. “I know Klaus and the others give you a hard time, but you’ve come a long way. You can make it.” With that, he left the cabin.

I just stood there for a few moments.

“Evan… when I come back, you better have not died on me.” I muttered to myself.

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Warzone -Chapter 6 [Memories]

Elise

“You have no idea where they might be?” I asked, extremely irritated. Evan’s face was blank. I couldn’t stand the metal and mask; it made it impossible to tell what was going on in that big head of his.

“We’ve sent messages to multiple groups. We will find her.”

“Hey, don’t stress. I bet she’s fine. If they wanted her dead, they would have done it in the first place. Now, you have to go home. Riley will be bringing you back.” Jonathan motioned to a short guy with big blue eyes who was smiling unnervingly big.

“No, I’m not leaving until Swift is found!”

“We will find her. You being here will not make it go any fast…” Evan was interrupted as he began to cough violently.

“That doesn’t sound good, buddy. I’m not sure about this new metal. I think finding them is just as much about getting Shadow back.” Jonathan sounded genuinely concerned.

Evan flashed a look of annoyance to Jonathan.

“I’m fine.” Evan grumbled, and then turned to talk to me, “What if Jonny or I brought you back?”

“Hey man, I don’t want you going anywhere! But, I can definitely bring Elise back if it makes her feel better. No offense, Riley.”

“None taken. It’s probably the eyes; everyone says it freaks them out. They say it looks a bit like a gerbil or something. Must say, sometimes they even scare me. Once when I was looking in the mirror…” as he spoke, Evan stared at him. “I’ll be quiet now.”

Jonathan laughed. Smiling in response, Riley ran off, meeting back up with his group.

“I’m only going if Evan brings me back. If you find her, I better be the first to know!”

“One second, I have to check with Soul. I’m not sure if he thinks Evan should be going anywhere either. And bud, please don’t leave before I’m back.”

Evan was going to respond but began to cough again. With a worried look on his face, Jonathan went to find Soul.

“So, he was alive this whole time, your father that is?”

“What are you talking about?” Evan asked. I could tell he was trying to sound apathetic, but was obviously surprised.

“Even if you’re wearing a mask right now, I know what your face looks like, and you look very similar. As well, just the way he was talking to you.”

Evan was quiet. I gave him a moment. He had always needed time to respond, ever since he was little. It was extremely difficult.

“Yes.” His voice was uncharacteristically tentative as he said it.

“You must have been livid. Even not knowing who my father is, with him being alive, makes me enraged. But, to be told that he was dead, him not objecting, and learning so many years later… I’m sorry.”

His fingers began to fidget.

“Yes.” he said hesitantly. It was always hard for him to express feelings. Truly, he didn’t even want to know they were there. He locked them away in some vault in his mind.

“He couldn’t tell us…”

Rage building, he clenched his right fist.

“You would have.” I laughed. “You’ve never had a problem with rebelling against authority, especially if it’s for family.”

He snorted, “True.”

Jonathan was back. His gaze went from Evan to me. He was quietly inquiring about what happened. I wouldn’t say.

“Feel special, he’s letting you go, as long as I come and we have swords. If we happen to meet up with Shadow or Thorin, we have to be prepared. Speaking of Shadow, Evan, you still have to call yourself that. In spite of everything, you have the same ugly mug as before. Nobody knows anything changed,” He rambled.

“And why a sword?” I inquired. Only reason I saw for it was to make everything more violent.

“Well, here’s how it works, the bullet, Shadow can make it go through him with ease. He can edit his shape quickly enough—without the help of a human mind—making it go right through him,” he said as waved his arms around, as if the words were just to go with his motions, “But, when the whole blade strikes him, it is a larger area, and without the aid of the human mind, he can’t react fast enough to make it go through. When it hits him,” he paused to give time to demonstrate it with his hands, “it creates vibrations, which makes him unable to think or respond for their duration. So, if you strike him with multiple strong strikes in a row, you have enough time to get away, move him, or whatever you need. You could even draw a mustache on him if you wanted.”

He made the motions for each fact, which was entertaining. It made me smile a bit. I especially enjoyed when he gestured the drawing of a mustache.

“Now, luckily, you grabbed that sword from the base, smart thinking bud. Now you have a weapon you can use. I’ll quickly grab them, and then we’ll be on our way.”

He ran off again.

I giggled, “What were with those hand gestures?”

“It’s his way of making a fool out of himself in all types of conversation. My theory, it’s his way of rebelling. People are supposed to be serious in the military. Hand gestures are not.”

“And everything has to be about rebelling?”

Evan ignored me. And we both remained silent until Jonathan came back.

“Here you go.” Jonathan said as he passed the saber to Evan.

I noted the two swords he had, and the harness to keep them on.

“And no weapon for you today.” Jonathan teased.

“Well, I already have one. I just have to get it from my house. It isn’t a sword, but I’m okay with that. They are messy, and unnecessarily violent.”

All I had was pepper spray and a taser I had stolen. He didn’t need to know that.

“Maybe, but they are one of the coolest looking weapons out there.”

We began our journey, and I had to listen to the ramblings of this idiot the whole time as he went on giving me a history lesson about swords.

Swift

It was a small room—meant for guests. There was a small dresser; it was empty. Everything was antique, a nice rich chocolate brown. On the adjacent wall was a trunk, and then, on the far right of it, was the door.

My hand held the cold metal of the doorknob. I turned it to discover it was unlocked. Easing the door open, I peered through the crack. Shadow stared at me, face blank. He was wearing a light pink floral apron.

“Hello Swift. Don’t worry, you can come out.” He said as he tilted his head.

I slowly eased my way out of the room. The whole situation was strange. Why would they want me? I was practically useless. And that apron, it was priceless.

I noted that the rest of the house had the same style as the guest room. Everywhere you looked there were well maintained antiques.

“Shadow,” I asked. He looked at me quizzically. I continued, “What’s happening?”

Face still blank, he responded, “Louie and Harkin are teaching the country, Lithin, a lesson. They are using you to do it. You have gotten three injections while sleeping. The medications should make your senses much quicker: sight, comprehension and movement. You will be able to decipher your surroundings better, and react to them quickly and efficiently.

They are also making another living metal like me. She will be your protector, and weapon.”

“Then why did they need to take you away from Evan?”

“I am needed for reference and to help train the new arrival, or if she decides to kill you, I can stop her. She should be ready in about a week.”

Kill me? I wasn’t sure about this.

“Do you need food? I made you food.”

I didn’t know Shadow very well, but I knew him a little, which made me a little more comfortable. In general, I was scared out of my mind. I didn’t even know where I was. They had blind folded me after about twenty minutes of travelling.

He motioned for me to go to the table, which was straight from the door of the guest room. After that, he went over to the island in the kitchen and grabbed a plate with eggs, bacon and toast and brought it over to me with a fork.

“Why are they feeding me so well?” I asked, poking the food suspiciously.

“They need you to be in good health so you can do all they need you to. You will be letting Illuma use your mind and body.”

The food looked so good, I couldn’t resist. In a matter of a minute or so, I ate all of it. Shadow took the dishes from me and went to the kitchen to clean them.

“Illuma? And when you say use my mind and body… what do you mean?”

His hands were busy washing the plate, fork and pan, as his eyes followed his left hand.
“Yes, her name will be Illuma. And, exactly what I said. She will use your mind and body.”

“I won’t have any control?”

What would that feel like? Would I even remember it? If I had no power over my own mind…

“No, not unless you find a way to overpower her, which I guess, is possible.”

As he spoke, he dried his hands with amazing grace.

“And you said it would take a week. What happens until then?”

He came over to the table and sat in the seat across from me.

“I will be testing you to make sure the injections were a success.”

Evan

I stood at the edge of the forest, staring at the city I once lived in. A couple of the houses were still not repaired, just piles of rubble on the ground, but beyond that, the city looked much larger and richer.

In the distance I could see tall glass buildings. I didn’t understand. If there were less people, why was the city bigger?

“Elise, Jonathan, what happened here?”

Elise responded instantly, like she normally did, “The surrounding towns and cities merged after the war, and used their combined materials and money to fix up Finalei, making one large metropolis.”

She went straight to the point. It was one of her strong points.

“What about the house?”

“Swift and I cleaned it up. And, because you were declared dead, we inherited it. I’ve been living there since. Don’t worry, Swift was determined you weren’t dead, so we didn’t throw out anything that wasn’t destroyed, we just put it in your old room.”

I always appreciated how she didn’t try to consol me. It made it easier.

My stomach turned a bit at the thought of the old house. It was as if my feet were stuck in place. But, I had to be stronger. So, I took the first step. The others were easier.

Jonathan hadn’t said a word. As much as it pained me to admit, he was a good ally. He knew his place. But, it didn’t take long for him to begin talking.

“I’m thinking, because we’re already here, we might as well pay a quick visit to my parents. I bet they would love to see that I haven’t killed myself yet. They would be happy to see my brother was wrong. Oh and what a pleasure it would be to see his reaction. Alas, he won’t be there, or I can at least hope.” At times like this, his rambling distracted me, which was advantageous.

“You already did,” I stated.

“Oh, yeah, good point…. But that was at Christmas. That was a nice. I’m glad my brother wasn’t there either. My family sure did like you. Especially my grandmother…”

“We’re almost there,” I announced.

“Alright, I understand. I’ll change the subject.”

Elise snickered.

We were there, right in front of the house. It looked exactly the same. I tried to make sure they didn’t notice me taking a deep breath.

“We have completed the mission,” I said, trying to keep detached. My mind kept on trying to sneak to my memories of my mother, but I wouldn’t let it.

“Bud, why don’t we go in? We’re here anywa…”

“No,” I interjected.

“Yes,” demanded Elise. She grabbed my right arm and dragged me to the door. Jonathan, responded like normal, he laughed and followed.

Elise led me downstairs, where the main rooms were. She expected me to look in my old room.

I tried to keep my eyes as closed as I could. It didn’t help. I ending up opening them and stared at the floor. Right there, in front of me was where my mother’s dead body had lied. There wasn’t even a stain. It was as if she had never been there.

My breath quickened, my eyes began to moisten. I became light headed. The memory burned in the back of my eyes.

I quickly turned away and crouched down. Holding my face I began to mutter under my breath hurriedly, “She is now a dragonfly, a dragonfly in a field of daisies. Every colour. She is every dragonfly. She is hope. She is now a dragonfly…”

I would not let myself cry. I had gotten soft. It was time to toughen up. I had lost my shell.

Jonathan and Elise were on either side of me, both squatting.

“You okay, bud? I’m sorry man, I should have known.” His tone was sensitive.

“Do you need some water?” Elise asked.

I bolted up, holding my gun out, pointing toward where Eagler had been.

“Know that it is your fault.” Oh, that was it. This was me. Unseen through the mask, was a pleased smile on my lips. “No, thank you. I’m good.”

I put my gun back into its holster.

“You were right Elise; I did need to come in.”

I spun to look over to Jonathan and abruptly changed subject, “Jonny, it’s time to go.”

I marched out of the house. Taken aback, it took him a moment to comprehend what happened. After he had obviously realized he wouldn’t understand, he scrambled to catch up.

“See you later Elise!” Jonathan hollered.

It took him a bit to reach me.

“What in the hell just happened?” He exclaimed. “That was not normal!” I could tell he was highly disturbed. I couldn’t care less. I had a mission.

“Evan! This was the first time you’ve been back since your mother died! You just rambled on some psycho speech! It was traumatic for you, I could tell. STOP.”

I stopped. His breaths were labored. After he got his breathing close to normal again, he spoke gently, “It couldn’t have been easy to return and see that spot. I know what it feels like. I watched my best friend get shot. And, I went back. It hits you hard—it hit me hard.” I took a deep breath. He continued, “It was traumatic. Dealing with going back, reliving it, it almost took as much time to get over as the event itself. But, once I went back a couple of times and managed to take in what happened, I was finally able to let it go. It wasn’t like I forgot about my friend, or stopped missing him; I just managed to accept it.”

We both stood there in silence.

“There wasn’t even a mark. There was no proof she was ever there. She’s gone.” I turned around and looked him in the eye. “I saw her get shot, but… I didn’t want to believe it. I’ve imagined going back, her just standing at the door, arms open. And then, I got there—she wasn’t there. Her arms weren’t open. She’s dead. My mother is dead.”

My emotions flooded me. I didn’t have emotion.

Jonathan put his hand on my shoulder. Even though I couldn’t feel it, it made me feel better.

After I got my composure, I continued, “She was one of the only people I could be myself around, who didn’t tell me to change. My father, I don’t think he even realized it, but he never let me feel what I felt about her death—all because he was unwilling to. He didn’t want to realize that the reason she never replied to his letter was because she was dead. I know he knew.

What’s worse is that after all of this is done, he’s going to erase Elise and Aria’s memories of me being alive again—the only family I have left.

My mother adopted them you know? She took them in when Elise ran away from her mother. She and I were their guardians, protecting them from anything else happening to them, like what happened to Elise. And now, Aria is missing, and I couldn’t stop it.”

My breathing was beginning to even out again.

His voice was serious as he looked me in the eyes, “We’ll get her back.”
As I began to regain control, I asked Jonathan, “Does it still bother you? Does it still burn in the back of your mind? I know you were talking about Lloyd, but Natalie, do you still miss her?”

Jonathan remained silent; a look of complete woe took over his face with a bit of anger behind it.

“You were going to marry her when you got back.”

“Yes.” His tone was sharp. “Let’s go already.”

Jonathan began to walk off, I followed.

Shadow

I found myself missing Evan.

I soon realized that I needed to find a way to restore the memory in which Swift had been taught to aim properly. I doubted it would have much effect on her now. There was very little reason in my mind why they vanquished that memory. They had told her about me quickly after the incident.

To restore this memory, I would have to replay bits of it until I found the trigger. This meant I would have to slowly become the whole scene. With the help of my moldable body, the scene would be fully relived. Something was bound to bring it back.

“Swift, come.”

Now that I had been helping her better her skills for the last three days, she was very willing to follow with no questions. I liked that.

“You will have to be patient and sit there while I emulate a scene. I think I have found a way I can make you be able to learn how to stop your Attention Deficit Disorder tendencies.

I do believe they are a result of not wishing to realize the fact that you are lonely and have some memories that you wish were not there. To add to that, I think you do not believe people will like you if you just relax and say or do what is natural without thought. What I will do is create a situation where you will feel at ease and let go of the thoughts that block your ability to use your strengths.

“Don’t touch me!”

I just stood there—confused.

I was pleased that Harkin was now coming. I could see him in the distance. Maybe he could cure her.

“Aren’t we lucky? The metal is finished earlier than anticipated.”

“Yes, very lucky indeed.” I responded.

Once he had gotten closer, he saw Swift. He seemed to understand what she was feeling.

“Why are you so angry? You should be happy; you’re getting well fed, and have your own personal trainer. But, I’m sorry to say, it doesn’t really matter now. It might even be an asset. It would be great if the first emotion Illuma learned was anger. She would be much stronger.

This will be grand. Shadow, good job, now we just have to hope she is angry enough that she doesn’t feel any of those worthless pitiful emotions, like empathy. I hear that is a popular one for girls,” he cackled.

Harkin waltzed slowly towards her.

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Warzone -Chapter 5 [Deterioration]

Evan

My breathing was no longer labored, and my heart and organs felt at ease. My only problem now was the cold. The metal was definitely not directly touching me, but it was absorbing the chill and making it much harder to keep my body temperature up.

“Wake up sleepy head.” It sounded like Swift. Opening my eyes, I could to see a face uncomfortably close to mine. Wait? Was it…

“Aria?” I couldn’t stop staring. She ran over to the door. Face hidden, it looked like Swift. Was it her all along? With much effort, I tried to look at her face again when she turned around, but she began to transform like clay into Shadow.

“Shadow! What are you trying to do to me?” I snapped.

“I have some things to tell you about the metal. I woke you up. Technically, you weren’t supposed to yet, but I made sure you did. You will have to pretend to be out when they come back.” He kept on looking towards the door.

“Why did you make yourself look like Aria?” He ignored me. As he came over to me, he continued to look around like he was prey and a predator was nearby.

“In these spots,” he motioned to multiple spots on my body, “Under the fake skin, are locations where you’ll have to unlatch to open the armor. You won’t survive long without it, but you can manage about twenty minutes to a half an hour a day, giving you enough time to take it off, shower and put it back on with minimal casualties. Do be careful, you need to be in a safe secure area with minimal stress, for if your heart is beating too fast while it is off, it will limit the time to half or less. If you are stressed enough, you might not even have enough time to get it back on.” His voice was unusually filled with emotion. He must have finally learned mine. “Now, pretend to sleep. They are about to come.”

“But what about Aria?” I asked desperately; I needed an answer.

“It was… a hint—and incentive, now do it.”

My eyes shut gently enough to give the illusion of sleeping.

The door opened loudly.

“Let me go! I don’t want to go with you!” It sounded like Swift. I began to wonder if she really was Aria. There was no way for me to know, I hadn’t looked at her face. “Shadow? Wait? How are you in two places?”

“Like I said before, I am Shadow, he is not. That is Evan.” There was a momentary silence.

“So she was right?” I needed to see her face. I hated not knowing. Other people needed to be the ones in the dark.

“Enough chitchat, we have to go. Come on Shadow!” Harkin was getting impatient, and so was I. How was I supposed to wait and try hunting them down? I wasn’t defenseless. Did he not trust me to win? I did have armor, even if it wasn’t him.

I opened my eyes, and bolted from my seat. Harkin and Louie were shocked, but used to such situations.

“Thorin! Get him, we have to go.”

Swift was closest to me. Running to her I grabbed her face, accidentally hitting her too hard with my left. I hoped it didn’t hurt too much.

It was her. She was right in front of me for the last few days, and I didn’t even know it. It was then that a sinking feeling came into my gut. I had made a promise to Elise, vowing that I would protect Aria whenever she was unable. One flaw Corvelon said I had, but my mother said was my best strength, was being empathetic. I would never let someone die, get hurt, or be in danger if I could eliminate the problem. As much as I hated, or was at least irritated by most of mankind, I cared about life, and people’s safety.

A bellow resounded through the room. Thorin was coming for me. Releasing my clutch from Aria’s face, I grabbed her arm and swung her behind me, getting her away from them.

“Evan, your armor can’t take his punches!” Shadow screamed. He was getting too sentimental.

Jonathan

“We have to get out of here! We can’t let them just take Swift! There’s a hole up there, that’s how Shadow got me out. Get me up there now!” She roared.

“We need to both get out of here. If you run over there, you won’t be able to do much.”

“Then give me your gun, and this time, I’ll think about the bullet-proof vest!” She was a pretty scary woman. There was no way she was getting my gun again. “And the keys have to be out there somewhere, maybe I’ll get you out of here when I’m done. Plus, you should feel lucky I’m even letting you pick me up. That really is something.” I couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Stop your laughing, and get me out of her!” I ignored her and surveyed the door. I noticed a piece of wire wound around one of the bars. Who was the smart guy who did that? As fast as I could, I untangled it. I then proceeded to attempt to unlock the door with it. It wasn’t really my forte, but I had to try.

“That’s pretty smart. I’ll give you that, but you better be fast, or we might not get to her in time.” She had finally stopped yelling, which was good. I was pretty tolerant, but only so much.

After a few minutes, I still couldn’t get it. Now I was starting to worry about catching up.

“Move.” Elise said calmly.

“Wait, what? You know how to pick locks?”

“Yes. Now move.” I was surprised by how calm she was. Still holding onto the wire so it wouldn’t drop onto the floor, I moved. She grabbed it from my hand, careful to not touch my skin. I got out of her way.

Within moments, the door was unlocked.

“La Voila, now you have a gun, go first. I don’t usually give that option, so you better go quickly, before it’s gone.” I did. Even though I didn’t technically have any proof, I liked being told I was getting special treatment. It meant I had at least a chance. It was then I realized that Shadow would most likely try and stop us from getting to Swift. I was starting to think I should be bringing my swords wherever I went. I wondered if she was into swords. Maybe I’d look more like a hero.

Once we had gotten down the hallway, I could hear Shadow talking, and followed the noise. Elise was close behind me. I turned to look down the parallel hallway. At the end, I could see the Corvelon brothers. What was I getting myself into?

They hadn’t noticed me yet, so I motioned for Elise to wait. She was reluctant and furious, but she listened. It was time to see if I might be able to be the prince in shining armor, or a dead dude on the floor with a woman mourning over him. Either would be nice. Though, I’d prefer to live.

I ran at full speed, getting between the brothers and beyond.

As I entered, Thorin hit Shadow with his elbow, throwing him across the room. That must have hurt.

Having noticed how ineffective the bullets were last time, I looked around for anything else that might help. I had really wished I had brought my blades, but now was not the time to think of that. Or was it? Maybe there was something like a blade around here?

Peering around the room, my eyes were caught by a glimmer. In the back right, there was something hiding behind a box. Thorin was still distracted by Shadow, letting me run over to it. I felt a little bad for Shadow. Hoping the metal was protecting him, I looked behind the trunk.

It was something of beauty. It must have been quite old, which made it even more beautiful. There in front of me sat an 1830 Napoleonic saber. Its condition was flawless. The gold and black handle was beautiful, as well as the curved steel blade.

I pulled it from its sheath. This would do the trick.

As I ran towards Thorin, I saw a flash of realization in his eyes. He quickly grabbed Swift from the floor and ran. That was not what I wanted. I continued to run, but was stopped by Corvelon at the doorway. Harkin had a sword as well, another Napoleonic saber, but in lesser shape.

“You think you’re getting her back, do you? Well, I say otherwise.” He pulled his sword from the sheath attached to his waist. “Guess we’re going to make this old fashioned.” Holding the sword in front of his face, flat side towards him, he smirked, “En garde.”

Harkin threw the first swing. I dodged, peering down the hallway to see how far Thorin had run. Thorin, Swift, Shadow and Louie were nowhere to be seen. What was worse, I didn’t see Elise.

“You shouldn’t be looking away!”

He thrust the sword towards my head. Bringing my sword up, with the side towards his blade, I blocked it. Pushing against it, I was forced backwards, into the room. Evan held up his gun.

“Harkin, put the sword down.”

“No thank you.” He darted, putting me between him and Shadow. This time, I tried to make the strike, going to plunge the sword into his heart. He moved to the side. Shadow shot, but Harkin was too quick. He had already ducked bellow the bullet, swinging the blade to hit the back of my knees. I jumped, missing the blade. I was pretty good at this.

Shadow tried once again to shoot him, but he had already moved, now using me as a human shield.

This time, instead of using the blade, he struck me on the head with the hilt, knocking me down, leaving me unconscious.

Evan

In moments, Corvelon had managed to run out of the room and flee. I could have probably run after him, but had to make sure Jonny was alright.

Two fingers against his throat, I noted he was definitely alive. I then inspected the wound. Looking at it, I guessed it hadn’t done anything but make him unconscious, but I had to be sure. I wasn’t too happy about having to carry him back, but it had to be done. Because I was doing him the favor of carrying him back anyway, I thought I might as well grab the sword too.

Having heard the definite sound of it being pulled from the sheath, I knew there was one. I grabbed it from the corner, and slid the sword back into it. With a bit of string in my pocket, I managed to attach it to my pants, next to my right gun holster.

I picked up Jonathan. Getting him onto my back was a little hard, but I managed. I hunched forward from the weight.

The metal quickly absorbed some of his heat, soon bringing up my core temperature.

It was still raining harshly outside, the wind dashing through the trees. If it weren’t for Jonathan’s heat, I probably would have been dangerously cold. My toes were. I would be pretty irritated if I had failed my mission and my feet got frost bitten.

It was then I realized I hadn’t seen if Elise was still in the cell, or where she was. My question was answered by hearing her cry out, “How dare you! Don’t you dare hurt her!”

I followed the sound. She was standing next to a tree, looking off in the distance. She noticed me.

“We have to get her back! We can’t let them just take her…” Beginning to quietly sob she looked down to the ground.

“You have to get her back!” Normally, I would. I liked when my father didn’t know where I was, but I couldn’t.

“We will, but for now, I have to get you and Jonny out of this weather.”

“No, we are getting her! A little weather can’t stop me!” she spat at me.

“We will find her, but Jonathan needs medical attention, and you will too if you stay in this weather.” She looked down at her dress, tights and camisole. Now she smartened up.

“You better find her!”

“I will.”

After a while, I really began to notice the dented metal and how it limited the air my right lung could get. Though, as exhausted as I was, and as much as I despised Jonny at times, I couldn’t try and find a make-shift shelter. I had to get back. If by chance that blow did more damage…

I tried to not think about it, or at least, convince myself it was highly unlikely. My pessimistic tendencies forced me to try and think of something else.

I began to focus on the rain. It punched the leaves, and dove into the many puddles forming on the forest floor. Some of the evergreen trees with their brownish-red foliage blocked a slight bit of the heavy downpour. And, every couple minutes, the dark sky was lit by lightning. Thunder roared in between. Sometimes, the distance between flash and boom was too close, telling me that the lightning was near. Wouldn’t that be great: failing a mission, a comrade dying from a concussion, toes damaged by cold, and to top that, being hit by lightning.

By the time I got back to the camp, I wasn’t feeling very well. Of course, I wouldn’t admit it to Soul.

Once I had past the tables, Soul ran out from his building and tried to help me carry Jonathan the rest of the way, but I didn’t let him. Instead, he held the door open to his building, which was the medical centre as well.

I dropped Jonny onto the bed, not even close to as gentle as I would have like, but he deserved it. He made me carry him the whole way.

Soul quickly changed Jonathan into dry clothes, and then looked to me.

“Is Shadow still with you?”

I shook my head. “It’s a different armor.” I couldn’t believe how tired I was. My eyes began to try to close and my muscles started to refuse to hold me up.

“You should do whatever you need to make sure you are warm and dry before you go to bed. You don’t want to get hypothermia.”

I was too tired to argue.

“Can Elise use your shower?”

He nodded in response.

“You’ll have to find her something to change into.”

“Of course.”

Soul passed her an army uniform. I then waited for her to be done so I could use it. I knew that if I were to use the communal shower, it would be a longer distance to my building, getting me drenched again.

Elise had finished. Barely being able to stand, I somehow managed to make my way to the shower and remove the armor. The water gave a burning sensation, but I knew it was set to about lukewarm.

As soon as I had warmed up a bit, I dried myself. The wound on my side had stopped bleeding, but was still very sore. So it wouldn’t rub, I found some bandages to wrap it. I put on the black protective suit for under the metal. My fingers, though warm, didn’t want to work. I tried to put the armor on after that, but couldn’t. I was too tired. As much as it pained me, I went to my father and got him to help.

Before he put the protective layer, armor and mask over my face, he just stared at me.

“It’s so nice to see your face again.”

I grumbled, “Put the stupid mask on. I need to sleep.” He did.

“Sleep in one of these beds tonight. I don’t want you going out in the rain again.”

I took a deep breath and accepted. Elise let out a quiet chuckle.

Once in bed and under the blankets, I closed my eyes and fell sound asleep, which hadn’t happened since I’d joined the military.

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Warzone -Chapter 4 [The Corvelon Brothers]

Swift

Corvelon? Which brother was he? He didn’t seem like a mad scientist or anything, so I assumed he was Harkin. Before I had the chance to analyze him much more, the sharp pain from my broken arm made me doubt my earlier enthusiasm about coming. Instead of worrying about that, I made myself compare it to sports. You have to have hurt yourself a couple of times before you get any good at them. I moved my gaze to Thorin, who grumbled, but begrudgingly left. I had noticed that his wounds had already vanished. Was that possible? He was just shot twice. I now looked to the shooter. It was my sister, Elise. What was she doing here?

Jonathan

With the help of the wall I got up. “I wondered if you were here,” I muttered as I wiped the blood from my mouth. I never liked the feeling of blood on my mouth; it made me feel like a cannibal or bulimic. “Well, hello Jonathan. I should have guessed you’d be here. You always have been a pest, making it as hard as possible to get to Shadow or Evan.” His voice had his normal sarcastic quality to it. “His name is Shadow.” “Is he now? I’m sorry but I disagree. I know Shadow. I like Shadow. I can’t say the same about Evan.” I had hoped he wouldn’t have used his proper name. Neither Swift nor anyone else was supposed to know. Leave it to Corvelon to not have cared in the slightest what he screwed up for others. He probably enjoyed it. I couldn’t blame him. I would have enjoyed messing up his plans too. “So, I see that you all got the chance to meet Thorin. What do you think? He was a gift from Louie.” He chuckled. It was then I realized there was a gun pointed at him and he didn’t even seem to care. He wasn’t immortal and had seen that the woman was willing to shoot. It wouldn’t be so pleasant if he had a personal upgrade. Harkin began to waltz towards the woman. That didn’t seem very appealing to her. “I will shoot you. Stop where you are,” She said sharply. “Why would you do that? I just stopped that nasty man from attacking you. You could at least give me a minute or so to talk to you.” It was as if he was talking to a child. “You also kicked me in the head, leaving me unconscious. And I do keep grudges.” The gun was kept pointed to his heart. Her stance was strong. “Elise, sweet Elise, you should know it wasn’t personal. You took my key—you needed some disciplining. Now, put the gun down. You don’t really think I would come unprotected and unprepared, do you?” It was then I realized how much of a dummy I was being. I knew why he wasn’t scared. Elise was only aiming for his heart, and he had a bullet proof vest. I would have one on, but I had been overly enthusiastic in finding Shadow. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. If Shadow were a girl, it would have made sense for me having forgotten such a basic item. Otherwise, it seemed rather strange. I guess, despite his grumpiness, we were very good friends, or as he would put it, allies. Though, I didn’t really understand Soul being so determined that it was crucial for me to wear one. I did have a bit of defense. I had some metal like Shadow, but only over my chest and arms. Elise shot with surprisingly good aim, getting close to his heart, but it did nothing. This could be a hard situation to get out of. I wished I was the one with my gun. I didn’t like the idea of being in a room with two girls and one of them with the gun. It wasn’t that I was sexist or anything. I just fancied being the knight in shining armor. I liked it that way, especially with the one girl being unbelievably beautiful. Sadly, she was the one in control of my gun—so much for the damsel in distress situation. I guess I could be the damsel, I bet I’d look good in a dress, but wasn’t really wanting to be. Corvelon laughed as he continued to walk towards Elise. She emptied all six of my bullets, trying to shoot his heart fearlessly. She was one tough woman.

Elise

Corvelon stood right in front of me, staring down at me. I looked up. “I like your bravery, but you aren’t very bright. I’m sorry to say I need both for my employees,” he laughed. How dare he make fun of me! “Have you ever heard of bullet proof vests?” He pulled his buttoned shirt open and pulled up his undershirt to show a black bulletproof vest. That was lovely. As a solution, I lifted the gun and went to hit him. He grabbed my wrist. “Feisty, aren’t we—and resourceful. I don’t think I like you. I usually find things like that sexy, but with you, it just makes me furious.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He then whipped them open. “People don’t attack me. They can attack my men, kill them even. I don’t care. But when someone goes for me, I don’t like it. Though, I guess that’s love?” Once again he pulled his fingers through my hair. This man was sick. He was just as bad as all of my mother’s customers. At least he had the decency to try and complement me in a weird way before trying to get services from me. He would be disappointed though, the store wasn’t open, never has been, and never will be. “Too bad for you, I’m already taken.” It was a lie of course, but he didn’t need to know that. “Oh? Who’s the lucky man? I would love to get rid of the competition.” I flinched. “I knew it, you were lying.” He looked pleased with himself. Grabbing my chin he asked me, “How about a date? And I wouldn’t try and turn me down. You should at least give me a chance, or I could just kill your sister right here and now.” I tried to kick him, but he dodged with ease. How would I get out of this? I would normally have pepper spray. It was a must since the last big war. “I’m not lying. I have a boyfriend, but his name isn’t any of your business.” “I think it is. Don’t worry; I wouldn’t kill him, just inform him of the situation. So, who is he?” “I am.” Jonathan said. I hadn’t expected it, but I had to go with it. Harkin let go of my face and turned to observe Jonathan. “Really? I didn’t know you knew each other. I guess you are from the same town. It could happen, but… Jonathan, you’ve been in the military for the last two years, at least. You have one dedicated girl. It must be serious.” He glanced at me again, “I think I need some proof.” Eyes returning to Jonathan, he continued. “How about a kiss? You must have kissed by now; he has been in the army for two years. Goodbye kisses are a must when going off to the war—so I hear.” Aggressively, he pulled me over to him. “Come on. A nice long one.” My heart began to race. My mother’s career choice had given me an aversion to men. I had only been kissed by her clients and that was foul. They were all at least double my age. I timidly covered the last bit of distance between us. I looked back at Corvelon. He was now at my sister, a knife to her throat. “I need proof. Or, if you were lying, you could admit it and come with me and I’ll leave them both alone.” My gaze went back to Jonathan. He was smiling. It wasn’t a creepy smile. Actually, it looked like he was apologizing. As much as he seemed like the better option, I didn’t want to have to. It wasn’t even like Corvelon was asking me to do anything that horrible. But because of past experiences, even the idea filled me with atrocious thoughts and memories. It made me sick. I finally managed to get the courage, but before I actually did, I could hear a voice coming from the hallway. “Corvelon. You no longer get the pleasure of being human. You are now my enemy. A foul beast that would torment someone I…” “Someone what? Someone you care about? Someone you love? Wouldn’t that be sweet? Evan, you’re so sentimental. You have always been over protective and get attached too easily. I bet you even care for Shadow and he isn’t even human. He can’t even feel anything unless you feel it first.” Evan didn’t look the same. If it weren’t for the voice and Harkin, I would not have been able to recognize him. Instead of dwelling on the situation, I took the opportunity to get the knife out of Corvelon’s hand and away from my sister. Fortunately, Harkin was fully distracted and getting the knife away was surprisingly easy. He also seemed to quickly realize his situation and put his hands up. He then walked to the center of the room as I pointed the knife at him. “Two against one, this doesn’t seem fair.” I couldn’t believe it. He still didn’t look phased, even with Evan’s gun now pointing at him. “Ah, but that is the trick, now it isn’t.” About five soldiers entered the room. I could see about another fifty, all standing in the large central room in a matter of moments. They were ready in case we tried to run. To top that, a man with large dark curly hair marched into the room, followed by Thorin. He was wearing a pale blue dress-shirt, well fitted dark jeans and a silver watch. His eyes, framed by silver glasses, were dark and severe. I guessed he was a couple years older than me, so maybe twenty-five or twenty-six. “So nice to see you Louie, my wonderful little brother.” “It’s been a while. You’re lucky I managed to devise a potion so I could control those guards or I wouldn’t have been able to answer your letter.” His voice was lower than Harkins. He was actually quite nice to look at and listen to, but I tried to ignore that fact. He was Harkin’s brother and couldn’t have been much better. “And I’m so glad. I do love finally getting to see you. Finally, after seven years, I get to see you again.” Harkin motioned to the knife and the gun. “Can you stop pointing those at me? You’re surrounded.” Evan put his weapon down first, and then I copied. Louie stared at me. He appeared mesmerized by my hair and my eyes. I tried to ignore it. “Who is this?” He asked surprisingly delicately. “Ah, I see you are attracted to her as well. This is Elise. She’s the girl I captured to get Shadow here.” “And is there something there?” Still staring at me, he inquired. “Actually, she is amazingly single, yet didn’t even give me a chance. Such a shame.” Harkin said with much displeasure. “Well, you are quite aggressive, aren’t you brother…Back to business.” He went to looking at Evan. “Shadow, it’s time. You have to leave Evan now. We need to leave, and I need you to help us. You and Thorin are our key to escaping and then to helping this country become… better.” Evan’s facial expression changed drastically, his eyes now wide and vacant. “I do not wish to leave Evan. Without me he will die. We are companions.” A tinny quality emerged in his voice and it went a few tones higher. “Shadow, you said you would help me. I need you to do this now.” I found Louie’s voice compelling. “Can’t he come? He needs me. I need him. Don’t worry; he won’t get in the way. I can control his body completely. You just need to feed him and give him water.” He sounded innocent as his head tilted slowly from side to side. It was as if he were talking about a pet. “I’m sorry, he can’t. Though, I know you care about him, so I can make a deal with you.” Evan, or Shadow, perked up. “What is that?” “How about I make him a different armor that will keep him alive so he won’t die without you?” Shadow began to get tense and look irate. “Another armor, like me? A replacement. Another living metal?” Louie responded with an astounding calm. “Of course not. It would just be made of an ordinary metal. I would never betray you like that.” Shadow and I both relaxed.

Evan

I felt like a marionette, all my movements controlled by someone else, and my voice not being my own. I didn’t like it. I wondered what this new armor would be like as Shadow made me follow Louie with Thorin and Harkin. Behind me, Jonathan, Elise and Swift were being held by guards. The last bit of Shadow came from next to Jonathan and followed like thick liquid on the floor behind us as we walked. I was reminded of when I was eleven and it made me uneasy. Like when I was eleven, I was lead to a room with a metal table in the center of the room that had straps to hold me down. The room smelled of mildew and soil like the rest of the building and the walls were covered in dirt with bits of moss. I couldn’t even open my mouth to speak to Shadow or say anything against the procedure as he lay on the table. This time I wasn’t even a little boy, yet I was even more defenseless than I was then. I hated this! Shadow slowly peeled from my skin, followed by him detaching from my organs and coming out my mouth. I began to gag. My breathing then became labored, my head began to pulse followed by dizziness. Flashbacks flooded my mind, reminding me of seeing my father for the first time after thinking he was dead. After that was the thought of when we thought he was dead. In my mind, I saw my mother answering the door. A man stood there. He was in a military uniform—and wasn’t dad. The man was having a hard time looking at her. He was telling her something, but I couldn’t hear it from the distance, nor could I see my mother’s face. I had assumed she had rubbed her make-up and he hadn’t wanted to say anything.       She was handed something. I was so curious. I wondered if it was a medal for my father when he came back, but as he left and my mother turned, I saw it was an envelope. As I ran down the stairs, and got closer, I saw that her make-up was now smudged. What I didn’t expect to see were the tears streaming down her face.       She held me tightly. I could barely breathe. Her tears were making me wet. Her loud sobbing was deafening.       After she had wept for a fair while, she loosened her clutch. Her hands were on my shoulders, and she forced me to look her in the eyes as she spoke. She didn’t sound aggressive or anything. Her voice was bordering on too gentle.       “I’m so sorry Evan. It will be okay, don’t worry. I will take care of you, and even though he’s gone, he’ll always live on in our hearts.”       A needle was shoved in my arm. I was quickly unconscious.

Jonathan

The large annoying task of explaining the whole situation of the living metal to Swift was bestowed upon me. It made me laugh though; she seemed more surprised and interested in his real name. “What was his last name?” “It was him.” I wasn’t sure what Elise was talking about, so I decided to eavesdrop. The idea of having some secret knowledge I could use against Sha… Evan was immensely satisfying. Or, even if I could get some information so I could understand his grouchy ways would delight me. “But… Then…?” It was kind of cute watching Swift look so baffled. “I don’t know. Though, it was him. I saw his face—when Shadow wasn’t there.” How did they know him? I would wait to ask. For now, I just pretended I wasn’t there. “Does that mean that I get to see his face too?” The conversation came to a standstill. I decided it was time to speak. “Probably not, I would assume that whatever new contraptions they’re making him wear will hide his face.” “But why?” Why did she have to be so incredibly innocent and cute? I sometimes forgot she was technically a woman, not a child. “He’s decreed dead.” She looked crushed. Why did she want to see his face so badly? I didn’t even get to. Once the cell went quiet, I began to hear the harsh breaths coming from the two women as they huddled next to each other to keep warm. I had gotten used to cold temperatures, and wasn’t affected so drastically. Wow, was I ever a lucky guy? Elise gave me a suspicious glance. “How are you not freezing?” I raised an eyebrow. “I guess I’m used to the cold. Or, I’m a human furnace. Either or, it doesn’t affect me too much.” It looked like she was thinking long and hard, like she had some dilemma which needed to be solved. It was fun to watch. “Then why are you hogging it? We’re freezing over here! You could go next to Swift. She’s never been good with the cold.” I was kind of hoping she’d ask me to go next to her, but oh well. Swift soon ended up huddled up very close to me, being careful not to hurt her arm more than it already was. “You are warm!” “Told you.” After a few moments of silence, Elise started talking. “So, Jonathan, do you have any plan about getting out of here?” She sounded cynical. “Not one hundred percent sure, but I’m waiting for Shadow—I mean, Evan. I’m not leaving without him… actually, now that we’re on the subject, might you be willing to say your connection to him?” I stared at the bars. “We were good friends.” I was surprised, she didn’t sound angry or mistrustful, just nostalgic. “Oh? So… anything… any kind of spark there?” I expected her to begin yelling at me, but instead she just sounded frank. “No.” I actually believed her. “Really? So, are you guys the same age? Or…” “No. I’m two years older than him.” That meant she was the same age as me. I didn’t mind that. “Swift is his age.” Now this was interesting. I must have triggered some memories, because she continued to speak. “Which, was good… It meant that I got him to watch over Swift while classes were in session. Too bad he couldn’t be there later. I can’t believe he’s been alive this whole time…” Her voice faded, as she must have gone into her mind. “Why, did you get bullied or something?” Swift jerked out of a daze. “Uh, well, not really. She’s just over protective and worried over nothing.” She smiled. Elise snapped, “Hey, don’t give me that. They were mean to you, and you had practically no friends.” “I don’t mind. I’m okay on my own. Been good so far, right? I’m just fine.” laughed Swift. It was then I started to question if Swift was as happy as she always appeared. Maybe she was; it was possible it really didn’t bother her. “Well, now you have two more friends to add to your small list.” She smiled at me, and then turned back to Elise. “See, I have friends.” I couldn’t help but chuckle. It made me miss my brother a bit, which was odd. I couldn’t stand that guy.
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Warzone -Chapter 3 [Thorin]

Swift

I was woken by Jonathan shaking me.

“Wha… what?” I was groggy and found it hard to open my eyes fully.

“It’s time to get up, we have practice this morning. You didn’t think it’d only be Shadow and I training you and we’d let you sleep in, did you?” He snickered.

“Sorry.” I forced myself to keep my eyes open and slowly got out of bed. After a few moments I managed to wake myself and follow Jonathan. As we exited the room I couldn’t help but notice that Shadow wasn’t there, and had to comment, “Where is he?”

“He probably already got up,” As certain as he tried to sound, I could hear a little bit of unease in his voice. “We’re gonna have to hurry up or we’ll be late.”

We quickly joined the many rows of soldiers. I looked around, but could not see Shadow anywhere. Startling me, Jonathan bumped my arm, motioning for me to stand up straight and pay attention.

“Good morning soldiers. I’m sorry to inform you, your little game will have to be put on hold. Robert and Albert will take over the training of the new recruits. Multiple Harkin Corvelon bases have been located, so the trained units will all be divided into groups to snuff out these disturbances,” announced Kurt.

After everyone was separated into their groups, I could see Jonathan talking to Soul in the distance. Now I was worried. I didn’t really know much about Shadow, but he was still one of my trainers. I had the right to worry. Robert noticed me staring over at Jonathan, so I straightened my back and held my arms to my side with my head high.

“Sorry, Sir!” I said in a bit of a panic. He chortled, “It isn’t a problem. You’re probably nervous about not being with Jonathan and being surrounded by all these strange men.” I relaxed my posture.

“Well, actually, it’s not about that. Not that that isn’t a little nerve racking. Shadow left yesterday and he isn’t back yet, and I think Jonathan might be asking about him.” Somehow I felt like if I said something he could give me an answer, even though I didn’t know him—at all.

“I wouldn’t worry about him, I’ve never seen him lose a fight, fail a mission, or get captured for more than a couple’a minutes. He’s a strong kid.” Did he know Shadow well? He sounded sentimental as he spoke, like he had known Shadow for ages and he was Robert’s child. It was kind of sweet.

Jonathan

“What was his mission?” I asked impatiently.

“Just a rescue and destroy mission.” Soul seemed irritated, and didn’t really want to deal with me, but I had a bad feeling. Shadow never took this long on a mission, unless it was something big, but from the sounds of this it was a quick job.

“Where is he? I could go in and check, make sure he’s fine, and then come back when I know for sure.” Just one little piece of information, that was all I needed.

“We need you to go to a different base, help get rid of others. Shadow already has that one covered.”

“Tell me where he is!”
“No! He’s on a mission. You are not a part of it. Join your group.” His voice rose and he got closer; he was practically yelling and spitting in my face. I stomped off. I knew when I had lost, even if I didn’t like it.

Before I finally surrendered and went to my group I went over to talk to Swift. She was speaking with Robert, but as soon as she saw me coming, she came over.

“Is Shadow all right?” and then added, “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, but I have a bad feeling about Shadow… and Soul won’t tell me where he is so I can check it out.” I must have sounded kind of testy, but I didn’t care at the moment, I was peeved.

Robert interjected, “Why would you be worried? I don’t think Shadow’s even capable of screwing up a mission.”

I bit my lip, and then explained, “I know, but… He’s at one of Corvelon’s bases, and if Corvelon was there…”

“I see your point. That would be one way he might have problems. That metal…” Confused, Swift was listening as hard as she could, trying to figure out what we were talking about, but I couldn’t tell her. Only certain people could knew about his upgrade— the living metal.

“Well, I could talk to Soul, but I don’t think he’d listen to me either. Plus, he hasn’t been gone long, not long at all. One night and a bit of the morning is nothing to worry about.”

I took a deep breath and tried to relax. “I guess you’re right,” I laughed, “You’d think I was his wife or something from how much I’m worrying.”

“What metal? Why would he be in danger? Who is Corvelon?” Swift asked desperately. Luckily Robert took over.

“Sorry, missy, can’t answer all of your questions, but I can sure tell you who Corvelon is. You see there are two brothers, Louie, and Harkin: the Corvelon brothers. One is an inventor and a scientist; the other is a military genius. They were born in Richtenreich, a country to the far East of here. It’s constrictive and regimented with way too many darn rules. It meant that the brothers couldn’t be as… well… creative as they liked.

About five years ago, us Lithians were lookin’ for some new materials that would be better for makin’ tools, houses and general stuff—mainly weapons. It was during that they discovered the two brothers and saw what Louie was making and convinced him to go back with them and in exchange, all inventions he made would be property of the army. Harkin, the tactician, decided that this wasn’t the way to go. He soon snuck into Lithin, our country, to find his brother. By this point Louie knew that the deal he made wasn’t actually what he wanted, but he was already military property. So, ever since, Harkin has been trying to slowly get his forces big enough so he and his brother can be free to do what they do best. Who knows exactly what will happen if they do manage? All I know is that there isn’t much of a chance it’ll turn out well.”

I could see Swift trying to soak that in, and realize that the main question wasn’t answered.

“What metal though?”

“I’m sorry missy, I can’t tell you, secret military stuff.”

“But, I’m in the military?”

Robert laughed, “I have to start working. Though, you know Jonny, I wouldn’t say anything if the two of you just happened to be missing from your groups off to a couple kilometers east of Kint.” Finally! Now I could go and see how things were going. I could see if my intuition was right. Must say, it usually is.

“Do you feel like going on a little quest?” Swift’s face lit up.

“I can come along? Really?”

“As long as you don’t shoot at the enemy while I’m not behind you” I snickered. She couldn’t help but laugh back.

Evan

My eyes burst open. I was in a small grimy cell that reeked of sweat and mildew. As I slowly got up, I saw Elise next to me, curled up in a tight ball, hair and clothes moist. She was shivering with her eyes clenched shut, teeth chattering quietly. Strangely enough, I could feel the cold too. Shadow must have left me, or at least my outer body. I couldn’t imagine him leaving my organs alone to slowly wreck themselves further. As much as he was loyal to Corvelon, he did value my life. We were companions and had been for many years.

As I looked around I couldn’t see any obvious ways I could get out without Shadow’s help. Talking a deep breath I stood up. I had lost a lot of blood from my side wound. I wasn’t used to bullets hitting me. It throbbed, slightly distorting my vision and making it hard to stand. To add to it, my skin was covered with small bumps and a chill I wasn’t accustomed to. Not used to feeling so much, I found it hard to concentrate on my goal.

Elise uncurled and opened her eyes. Once standing, she didn’t seem to recognize me through the darkness. Thank God for the dimness.

“You shouldn’t be standing; you’ve lost a lot of blood. You should really have medical attention.” She analyzed the injury. “I can’t believe they just threw you in here with a bullet wound. What kind of monsters are they?” She came closer to get a better look. “I wish I had something to wrap that with.” Her eyes quickly snapped to my shirt. “You have an undershirt under that?” She asked, eyes looking up at me while she hunched forward—holding herself to keep warm. She seemed to have a moment of recognition about who I was, but then it was gone as she looked at my shirt again. She never did keep eye contact for very long.

I found her voice comforting. It was lower than I remembered, but that gave it a more soft and rounded quality. Her eyes were navy blue like I remembered, but her hair a slightly darker blond from age. I quickly recalled that she had asked me a question and responded, “Uh, yes.”

“So which do you love more? Though I’m guessing it’s just a uniform and you aren’t really attached to either,” she said thoughtfully.

“Not really.”

“Well, choose one. You have to wrap that before you lose too much more blood. You might as well take them both off now so I can get to your wound to wrap it for you,” her voice was apathetic, though she always had that quality to her.

I quickly undid the buttons on my shirt, taking it off. Carefully, I removed my undershirt, peeling it from my wound. The whole right side was encrusted with dry blood and drenched with wet blood. Hurriedly, she grabbed the undershirt and began to rip it into strips.

“Sorry, didn’t look like you would be choosing, plus it’s already covered in blood… well, your other shirt is too, but not as much,” she said awkwardly. “Lift your arms.” I did.

She didn’t seem to enjoy wrapping it, trying as hard as she could to touch me as little as possible, like I was contagious—a sentiment I commonly felt.

“So, why are you here?” She said as she tried to distract herself from the task.

“I’m saving you.” I said blankly.

“Are you now?” She sniggered. As soon as she finished, she got a good couple of feet away from me. Eyes directed to mine once again, she was about to say something, but her mouth merely went ajar, recognition fully settling in her mind.

“Evan?”

I began to sweat nervously—no one was supposed to know I was alive. A sick feeling filled my stomach as I really comprehended what Shadow not covering my face meant. It had become a comfort. My eyes darted away, “I… I think you have me confused with someone else.” I stuttered tensely. She just stared for a minute, shocked.

“I thought you were dead…” She paused, “We cleaned up your blood…if that wasn’t your blood, whose blood was it?”

I swallowed. Closing my eyes for a moment, I cleared my mind of emotion. Calmly, I opened them again. Glance shifting, I began to analyze the bars. “You have me mistaken for someone else.” My voice was clear and confident.

She sounded just as sure when she answered, “Don’t lie to me. I know it’s you.”

I ignored her, continuing to survey the cell. This time I noticed a gap above the bars, just big enough for Elise fit through. I calculated the height. If I hoisted her up, she could reach it. I turned around, and picked her up. As I held onto her awkwardly, she squirmed profusely.

“What the hell are you doing?” She shouted. I carried her for the couple steps to reach the front of the cell.

“You are going through that hole.”

She looked up. Now, she couldn’t care less that I had picked her up without permission and reached up. Her hands barely touched the top. Lifting her higher, she grabbed the top. Hands clenched on the bar, she hoisted herself up. Once she had pulled her body through the crevice, she shifted herself as to land on her feet on the other side. Rather gracefully, she dropped herself down, landing in a squat to prevent hurting her legs. Because of her knee length skirt and dark winter tights, it looked rather entertaining. She grabbed the keys, and just as she was about to unlock the door a devilish smile pulled up either sides of her mouth and she stood back up, key in hand.

“Before I unlock this, I need one thing—I need you to tell me the truth.” She sounded stern, “Are you Evan? And how are you alive? Oh, and don’t you dare pick me up like that again!” A determined look hardened her eyes.

“Ye…” I was interrupted by rumbling raspy laughter.

“Oh, would you look at this. I guess I do know your weakness after all.” Corvelon pulled his fingers through Elise’s hair lasciviously. As he did, he sauntered in front of her. “I have some advice,” he smirked, “Don’t talk so loud if you’re trying to escape. Yes, I know, seems like such an empty hallway, but you know—Shadow has excellent hearing.”

Like a liquid, Shadow pulled up from the ground. He slowly moved onto my skin like oil, covering me once again. “Hm. Shadow, why must you care so much about him?” My skin began to warm again and the moisture was slowly absorbed by Shadow, letting my skin feel nothing once more.

The smile left Corvelon’s face. “At least you’re still in that cage. You’re all that I need, not this stupid girl.” he scoffed. Corvelon spun around and brought his face close to Elise. Aggressively, he clenched his hand around her hair, tugging it towards him, then behind, just enough to inflict pain. “I should thank you for getting him here for me. Though,” He snapped, “I do not appreciate you coming out without my permission or feeling the right to take my key.” He ripped the key out of her hand. Then, he yanked her hair, pulling her to the ground. Vehemently, he kicked her in the gut—she gave out a grunt—followed by a kick to her head, leaving her unconscious on the floor. He swiftly turned around and strutted up to the cage door. His face was close enough to smell his sour breath as he spoke, “Once my brother knows I have you, he’ll come and Shadow won’t be able to protect you anymore.” He cackled, “He might even squish you—could be fun to watch.” Steam from his breath crawled up my face. He spun around and marched down the hallway.

“Thorin, dispose of the girl,” he called.

A large strong bald man, covered in scars, shuffled down the hallway. As he came closer you could see that the white of his left eye was reddish pink, and the iris a milky white. His other was a bright gold. The bottom of his right leg was a metal contraption, making it shorter than his left creating a labored walk. Even with such a defect, he seemed fierce and durable. His hulking arms lifted Elise with ease, chucking her onto his large shoulder. On his bare chest were multiple tattoos that looked like complicated geometric patterns, as well as a circular necklace with some ancient script inscribed. His pants were a dark green, tucked into his dark brown boots, which you expected from a soldier.

Our eyes met. He bore his teeth in a sneer. They were all filed to a point and yellowed, his gums slightly blackened. A low rumble merged from his lips, which then turned into strange animal-like growl. Strings of saliva stretched between his lips. His hot breath was visible in the cold air as he then hobbled down the hallway.

Thorin, who was he? What was he?

Jonathan

I made sure to keep an eye on Swift. At this point I wondered how smart it really was to bring her. What was I thinking? She had never gone on a mission, and as proved earlier, she had no aim, and when she did get have half decent aim, her memory had to be erased, leaving her unable to even shoot a giant who was a good five meters wide. I tried to put it out of my mind. At least I had pretty company.

The scenery was like everywhere else as we walked: the grass refused to grow under debris from dead plants, trees and remains from war; mountains standing in the distance, barren as the ground below them; the sky obscured by dead trees. Where one could see the sky, it was a light brown colour, like a desert dust.

After we had walked for a while, a large cement wall stood in front of us. I motioned Swift to stay behind me as I peeked around the wall. Shadow had definitely been there. On the ground lay two guards. I noted that the electric fence was already disarmed. Why hadn’t anyone cleaned it up? Maybe Shadow had already dealt with everyone. Wouldn’t that be handy?

I motioned for Swift to follow, and we climbed. As I got to the top I noticed the same situation, many bodies on the ground. I quickly got down, and then helped Swift.

“Looks like he did his job, whatever it was,” Swift stated.

“Be quieter, we don’t know if anyone is still here,” I whispered.

We entered cautiously. The brownish grey hallways were empty, only occupied by dirt and mildew. The smell was much like that of a hole or cave. The hallway soon opened up into a larger room. Careful to peer inside before walking in, I could see a couple of men talking to each other.

“I can’t believe we actually captured him.” said the first man, his mustache moving as he spoke. It was a little distracting. I began to imagine if I could grow a mustache, but then went back to listening.

“Only ‘cause Corvelon’s here. It gives us the advantage.” This man was tall with black curly hair. His tone was scornful.

“I’d say he was just outnumbered.” laughed the third man.

Just catching up, Swift bumped into me, not realizing I had stopped. I tripped, and grunted. The three men’s heads quickly turned. All three lifted their guns in moments. Getting my balance back I quickly shot them before they fired at me. There were two problems: I was hoping to get more information from listening to them, and my gun did by no means have a silencer on it.

In moments I could hear voices and movement. What to do? If we tried to go back the way we came we wouldn’t be able to get over the wall fast enough. There were four hallways linked to the room. We would have to take one and hope for the best.

“Swift, pick a number from one to four.” I said frantically.

“Umm… three!” She muttered nervously.

We ran through the third hallway to the right. At the end was an old wooden door. I yanked it open. Behind it stood a large bald man with a fake leg and terrifying eyes. Swift couldn’t help but let out a shriek. I would have too, but I was supposed to be the tall strong military guy, and I didn’t want to wreck the image.

An animal like grumble came from his malicious smile as his mouth slowly opened showing his sharpened teeth. A grayish drool oozed from his mouth. Promptly, he raised his arm, plunging a punch to my gut. I propelled backwards, falling on Swift. I heard a definite crack behind me as Swift let out a yelp. She must have broken her arm, which was positioned awkwardly beneath her. It made me a little sick. I didn’t like the idea of such a nice girl with something that painful.

I quickly got up, pulling out my gun. I pointed it at his head. He let out a rumbling laughter that reverberated through the room. It stunned me for a moment. In that second, he charged at me. My gun flew out of my hand and slid across the floor towards a blonde girl I hadn’t noticed in the corner of the room. She was unconscious and really good looking. She appeared tall and slender.

The man drove me into the wall. Luckily, I had just enough of what Shadow had to protect me. It was what Soul had given me. The metal didn’t cover my whole body, but simply my chest and arms. It was enough to protect me from the blow. I quickly threw my own punch, hitting the side of his head. He didn’t even flinch.

From his pant pocket, he pulled out a strange stone. Shoving it at me, the bit of the living metal I had retreated and left me unprotected. This was not good news. The man punched my gut once more, this time blood rose out of my mouth and I was left winded. He looked at the stone pleased. I guess he didn’t know if it would work. I slid down the wall. My vision was beginning to become skewed. Swift stood up, and I was unable to protect her as the man began to walk towards her. Shadow, where were you?

Elise

My whole core ached and I was slightly dizzy. As I slowly woke, I could hear a loud, low, booming laugh. With much effort, I opened my eyes to see a gun lying on the ground in front of me. I looked up to see a large grotesque man. Urgently, I picked up the gun, scrambling to my feet. My hands quivered as I gripped the gun. Trying to steady the cold steel, I pointed it at the man. I aimed for his heart, but found it hard to concentrate between the young man injured on the floor and the plain enormity of the scary one in front of me. As well, he seemed to be holding someone up, forcing whoever it was to look at him face to face.

I took a deep breath, trying to steady my nerves, or at least ignore them. My finger pulled the trigger. The bullet flew, hitting the man’s arm, making him drop his victim. He whirled around, showing a terrifying, monstrous face.

Shooting him was easier than I thought; though, fear still coursed through me, making my heart beat at an alarming speed. I let myself use the adrenaline and shot him once again, this time hitting his non-metal leg. He fell down onto his opposite knee, howling.

I quickly surveyed the room. The young man against the wall was alive and awake. My eyes continued to the left. There on the ground, curled up in pain, was my sister, Swift. Anger surged and swelled inside me. How dare he hurt my sister? This meant war.

My eyes returned to the large man.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing with my sister?” My voice was loud and filled with rage. He grumbled, and then slowly got back to his feet. A roar, much like that of a lion, burst from his lips.

I felt the same way.

I readied myself to shoot him. He readied to charge. As my fingered lightly pressed the trigger and he brought his first foot forward, a voice cried out, “Thorin, stop!”

We both stopped in our tracks and looked over to a man that stood just outside the door. He wore an army uniform and had short slicked back dark brown hair. His face was angular.

“Corvelon,” muttered the young man next to the door.

Evan

Shadow seeped into the lock, opening the cell door. This time, I would finish the mission.

I marched down the hallway dauntlessly.

“Shadow, I need you to stop running off. I won’t kill him, just don’t let him kill me.”

“Yes sir.” His voice was emotionless, like mine. Though, I doubted he could feel anything. Sometimes, I envied him. It allowed him to be much more objective.

“You analyzed the area. Where is she most likely to be if they haven’t disposed of her yet?”

“You will need to go down this hallway. When you come to the end you will take the passageway closest to the right. At the end of it is an empty room commonly used by Thorin when he is not carrying out missions for Harkin Corvelon. That is the best evaluation of her placement in the building, if she remains alive,” He said, as if he were reciting from a book with his tinny robotic voice.

Louie Corvelon

It was missing something. There was a crucial ingredient it needed, but what? Looking through my shelves, I hoped to see something I didn’t see before. Ruthith? No. Liminothe? No. Cameranth? Maybe? I grabbed the bottle, analyzing its contents. The large black leaves were submerged in a thick, transparent, milky liquid. I set the bottle in between my many encrypted notes on the long wooden table in the middle of the room. Scanning the many papers, I pondered whether this might be it, that one ingredient. This would be revolutionary. Unlike the petruvio, this would be looked up to. Everyone would envy my genius and demand for my potion. And, it wouldn’t be like the Innocents either. Nobody really realized my genius with that. It was such a little thing. Shadow was only known by the military, leaving him non-existent among ordinary people. This creation would put my name on the map.

For the last year there have been countless wars, one after another, diminishing the population on the planet. My plan was to replenish those numbers. Because it was impossible to make people from scratch, I decided to use animals that were ample. I would take the dogs, cats, birds and fish that were once house hold pets to citizens who had died and, through genetic mutation, make them into human beings. My brother had always tried to support my ideas, but he had doubts about this one. I was determined to prove to him that it would be a success—especially since my last experiment had failed, causing a negative mutation. At least, that is what I have to tell people. To tell the truth, it was very successful. I managed to ameliorate a young man’s physical and cognitive abilities. The thing that I thought was another betterment, but was doubted by others was that he lost his ability to feel empathy. I never thought it was a very useful emotion, nor did my brother. Though, I had noticed the effects on his emotional wellbeing had faded a slight bit. The few physical abnormalities that also made my supervisors nervous were that his eyes were altered. The iris of the one went gold, while the other was white. The area that was supposed to be red on the second eye went a reddish pink. On top of that, his skin began to have markings emerge. Harkin tried to convince me they were some type of code, but what was the chance of that? Code emerging on someone’s body? It was highly unlikely, but he still insisted that I tried to see if I could decode it. I do not spend as much time on it as with my most recent experiment.

A knock came from the door. One of my three supervisors went and answered it, bringing a letter over to me. I opened it quickly. What was this? It was from Sir Lloyd Francis. I was clever. That man was dead. I knew who this was from. It was from my brother. I was to go on a field trip? Harkin was asking me to check on Shadow and Thorin, my two best inventions.

It was time for some fun.

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