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Last Hero 2nd Edition Preview
Last Hero was released on February 24th, 2014 in all its glory and errors! It has been an exciting time and a time to learn and grow! I would like to think that as an author and as a person I have grown up a bit. I also like to think that my growth will show in the second edition of Last Hero and in the second book to the series, Last Hero Age of Shadow. I cannot say enough how much I appreciate my readers, giving me feedback and ideas, even hanging tough with me! For the release of the second edition of Last Hero, I wanted to create an extended preview for my readers.
I highly recommend checking out the original text here: LastHero.Hubpages.com before giving this a read (though not all three chapters are there yet). That way you can see the side by side changes for yourself. Most are minor changes, but see if you can tell what changes have been made that will have profound effects on the story later on! As always please leave your thoughts at the bottom in the comments section!
Last Hero Book Cover
Chapter 1 Awakening
Blue, green and pink melted together and nothing seemed to make sense. He blinked his eyes hard several times trying to focus on the haze of colors. His eyes felt sore and focusing them proved difficult. Soon enough however, the colors began to separate in blotches, then distinct patterns. He blinked hard again, finally making out the sky with a plain of thick grass beneath being dotted with a myriad of daisies. The place was new to him having no recollection of it. He tried to move, only to find himself struck with infant like strength in a body too large for his muscles. He fought for composure and attempted to remember how he made it here . . . nothing.
A deep fear crawled through him as he wondered aloud, "Who am I?"
The words came out naturally, without any need to contemplate how to say them. He realized that despite his lapse in memory he must retain some basic knowledge. He decided against meditating on his basic knowledge as he felt the urge to move again. It was an insatiable, an almost painful motive to stop being still; yet he had no idea what drove him to feel as though he could move.
Attempting to move this time caused a sudden burst of strength to fill his body, terrifying him momentarily. Although painful at first, he felt joy as he watched his arm rise into the air. He could move. Strength still flowing, the man slowly sat up and took in his surroundings - an endless field of pink flowers; a stain among the otherwise barren grassland stretching beyond imagination.
With great care he brought himself to his knees and wobbled to his feet. Having lost his balance, he again took in the scenery, this time on his stomach. Unwilling to give up he tried once more, creating a wide base with his knees. The man wobbled to his feet, leaning forward with arms stretched out over head as if to pull himself up using air alone. Slowly he rose, fighting the gravity that seemed to laugh at his attempt to defy it. However, gravity lost this fight, for he stood proudly, being fully erect.
Looking about he noticed only one thing, "The flowers. . .where did they go?" He asked the gentle breeze, which carried no response.
The plain was now empty, just grass dominating every inch of its territory: it was so thick that the dirt it was sewn in saw no light. Moving his foot forward in a way that could hardly be considered a baby step the man moved through the field. There had to be other people about, I could not possibly be the only one around. He thought to himself as he took bigger and faster steps. In the back reaches of his consciousness he wondered what would stir such a thought. Likewise the thought also stirred within an emotion of loneliness.
Moving through the grass seemed futile; there was nothing over the horizon and no tracks behind him. He looked up for the sun, trying to think where he had last seen its position. Alas, he had not taken note of such a thing, and now he noted that the sky was as void as the field he stood in. There was in fact no sun, no source of light.
The man glanced down at his feet finding he had no shadow, as the whole place appeared to be evenly lit. Not even the underside of his foot cast any darkness upon the grass. He tried to shrug it off as he continued walking.
Contemplating, he tried to remember who he was and how he managed to make it to this place. The attempt was met with sharp spike of subduing pain. He gripped the sides of his head and screamed at the sky as faint images danced in his mind. Though the images were indistinguishable, he felt as though they were not his memories.
The pain subsided, bringing nothing but a panting man face down in the grass. He slowly made it to his feet again, warily continuing onward; being purposefully sure to keep his mind clear.
Padding through the sea of green the man now thought about how easy it was to walk. He nearly laughed out loud at how he had struggled so hard before. Had enough time passed that such an early memory would seem so distant to him? He fought, trying to think about how long he had been traversing the strange land. Hours perhaps? Maybe a day or two… could not have been more than a week. These thoughts and more made him wonder if time was just in his head.
"SLAE!" A voice boomed from all directions.
The man spun around, trying to find the source, but all he could see was grass; the endlessness of it was sickening. He tired of being alone, having no memory of anyone, including himself; he was feeling lonelier now than ever.
"Hello?! Who are you?!" He managed at the top of his lungs, but no one responded.
He thought hard on the word ‘slae’. It seemed odd and yet for reasons he could not explain, the word was familiar to him. Not only familiar, but as if it was a part of him. It was as if the word ‘slae’ belonged to him. He fought for answers on how could he know that? But he did not want to cause himself pain again and breathed it away.
"SLAE!" Again it rang, this time shaking the very sky.
With that, he made up his mind. Until he learned otherwise, he would carry the word as his name.
Slae, spinning about, screamed, "I'm here! I'm here!"
No one was to be found, but before Slae could take another step a voice whispered in his ear, "Come to me." The voice was that of a female, and the warmth of her breath was felt on his ear.
Ger voice sooth and an aroma overwhelmed his senses: he had never smelled anything in his short memory as sweet. He turned only to stumble backwards at what his eyes took in.
A vast ocean, as endless as the plains themselves. A new sensation against Slae's feet: pure white sand. It was unreal in appearance and poured down a slope from the ocean of grass into an ocean of water.
The ocean's sky was as different from the sky over the plains as black is to white. Clouds churned and fought for control blotting out the peaceful back drop of an otherwise blue sky. Along with the turmoil of the sky came lightning that pierced the water's surface with thunder so great it caused the ground to tremble.
Large waves rolled from afar yet the shore was calm. Slae, stepping toward the waters, caught a glimpse of his reflection. He was very tall with grayish tanned skin. His eyes were large and nearly solid black; the only thing darker was his hair that streamed down his bare back. He was naked, however unbothered, for he had no recollection of ever being clothed before. It almost felt natural to him. His muscles were wound tight about his frame and his body was completely hairless.
Slae moved in toward his image, his mouth gaping. Something seemed out of place, but he could not quite put his finger on it. This was what he looked like, yet he had no memory of it.
"Who am I? Please you know who I am… " He sounded desperate, “Tell me . . . wh-who I am." Slae stammered, at first, then shouted at his reflection, "Tell me who I am!"
He brought his fist against the water and wrenched back his aching hand in surprise. Despite the loose retention of the surface it felt solid when he struck it. So solid in fact that not even a ripple was formed.
Peering into the water again he gaped in awe, how can it be solid? Then a thought of realization hit him - his teeth were missing. Just a solid black void filled his mouth for a moment and then a light formed therein. The light was great among the darkness, growing in size.
Slae leaned forward, his heart pounding, quickly recognizing the light as a ball of dazzling pure-white flame. He tried to pull away only to find his own reflection gripping him with a great strength. Twisting hard Slae struggled to escape without success. His image arose, breaking from the water; its mouth wide open, displaying the great ball of fire. Slae tried to yell in panic but his voice was struck silent. The reflection closed the distance as Slae squirmed violently. He kicked and flailed his arms, frantic to break free.
In a flash Slae was face first in the waters, seeing no ocean floor; just visions of unimaginable death and destruction. Flopping to his back, drenched, he crawled backwards to the grass. The blades of grass were sharp against his hands and prodded his back. Turning about he peered at silver spikes taking place of the once lush green plants. Sharp pain drove up his spine in frenzy while images danced in his head. Like before, all the colors melted into one as he succumbed to darkness and then nothing.
Light; bright and glorious flooded over everything. Even through the tightly closed lids of Slae’s eyes.
A heavenly voice spoke, "Look upon me."
Slae opened his eyes and did just that, finding the light to be even brighter than he imagined. Despite its luminosity it was not blinding. Instead the light was pleasant to look upon. As his eyes adjusted to see past the light, there was found an angel of great splendor. Her long golden hair hung about her, moving gently with the ocean breeze. Her eyes were piercing and blazing-blue. They forced all darkness to fall before her.
She would be as naked as Slae if not for white cloths floating about her, never touching her glowing skin. Great transparent wings that shimmered many colors, stretched as far as Slae could see; hugging the ocean that surrounded the tiny island.
The island was made of white sand and centered with blood red bricks that encompassed the Angel. She sat in grandeur upon a throne of air that yielded several inches between her and the ground. Slae stared at the bricks, for he could not look into her eyes. They burned something deep within and created shame.
"Hello Slae," The Angel began, "My name is Quweaign, and I am the Angel of Light. I have brought you here to me, which was not easy."
Slae struggled for his words, "Whe-where is. . .here?"
The Angel smiled and gently hushed Slae, "Come and kneel before me, for now is the time in which I awaken your mind."
Slae felt heavy as he moved; something in the light weighed down on him. He stood, struggling against his own will to fall and bury his face in his hands. Tortured and humbled he now stood inches from the heavenly host.
He looked up for a moment and gazed into her eyes. They were large and beautiful, but this was far from his mind. Time had stopped, his skin tingled, and he drowned in her brilliance. Nothing mattered for a moment. Then her hand touched his shoulder. It was strong, despite her feminine physique, and pressed him to kneel. He held her gaze as she placed the same hand on his head.
Slae could hardly keep his composure as a sensation overwhelmed him. The air thickened and lightning pounded the ground. He could feel knowledge he did not have before, yet none of it appeared to be of personal memory. Unexpectedly a powerful burst of energy ruptured from the great Angel's hand sending Slae into the water rimming the island. The Angel remained unharmed, however. Though the shock of it caused Quweaign to tremble slightly only to regain her complete serenity a moment later.
Slae dropped to his hands and knees before her and spoke humbly, "Angel of Light, I know things now that I did not before, but I still do not know who I am."
Sighing, the Angel looked sorry, "Slae, I seem unable to fully restore your mind. It does bring me pain to say that I cannot tell you who you are, for I do not fully know." She looked down in thought then back at Slae, who was in great despair.
He was a bit shocked by her response and queried, "How can you not know?"
She responded, "I found a stray child on a planet whose name is Slae. I know, because that is what you told me."
"Do you not know anything else about me?"
The Angel frowned, "I shall unveil to you the things I know but first I shall show you something of great importance."
Slae stood and stepped forward, his mind struggled to comprehend why she wished to torment him with having to wait. He wanted to command her to tell him now, but knew it would be futile. Being lost in thought and in self pity, Slae had not realized how close he was until the Angel’s hand rested upon his shoulder. Having felt her hand it caused him to look up at her.
"I wish for you to see a couple of items at my disposal." She pointed to something Slae had not noticed before.
It was a twisted and gnarled rod of black wood that grew into a hand. The hand was blacker than the wood and its nails jagged. Within the palm of this hand was a large crystal ball with three distinct gray smoke-like swirls.
"These are the ethereal spirits of great darkness and evil contained within this crystal." She paused, and pursed her lips becoming lost in thought.
Behind all the light Slae could have sworn he saw a single tear spring from her eye and carve its path down her cheek.
She spoke again, "These evils are from before your time and before this Universe's time.” The Angel was slow to explain and paused to explain another thing, “I must apologize, Slae. For you see it has been a very long time since I have spoken to anyone. This has made me quite anxious to speak with you.”
Slae nodded in understanding and the Angel continued with her story, “As it were, these evils were great sorcerers of their time. They brought happiness and hope to many people. However, by and by they began to grow prideful of their abilities and a seed of evil took root within their hearts. Do not be mistaken though, they chose this for themselves. This was their path, a single being's choice they can only make on their own." The Angel then pointed to another orb, this one was different.
This orb shone with purity but looked dim in comparison with the light of the glorious being, who once again looked sad.
"This orb is not that of any spirit or being," She began, "but it is all the good the universe has; a path of light that fewer follow today than yesterday. I have watched with a weary heart as it grows dimmer with each passing moment." Her glow seeming a little less scintillating and for a moment he could feel all her sadness.
The mightily raging storm too had lost its luster and a light rain fell upon them.
The Angel stared deep into Slae's eyes, as if searching his soul before continuing, "These orbs represent choices of everyday individuals. It is by their own doings that they become who they are. Your memories do not dictate the person you are now or what you can become. No, it is the choices you make that will determine such a thing. You must choose who you are and act upon that choice." She looked toward the sky which cleared in an instant.
Slae played at the ground with his feet, still feeling lost.
She sighed, "You must understand that what I know will not aid you in finding who you are. Yet I shall relinquish my knowledge to you, nonetheless. You ought to know that you are not alone with yourself, for there resides another. He will make himself known to you soon enough. Be warned however, his nature is not pure and his intent is to control."
Slae furrowed his brow, his confusion furthering, but before he could say anything she went on, "He carries no memory of you, or of himself. He is as lost as you are. It is true; you were not always like this. Yes. It was I who did this to you. I did it because it was necessary that it be done."
"What exactly did you do. . ?" Slae's words trailed off.
"I did what I was tasked to do. We are all destined for a position in life. Whether we fill that position is entirely the choice of the being for which it has been made."
She pursed her lips as she thought for a moment, "I shall tell you the thoughts of my concern with you. You did not come out the way I had envisioned you would; that does not change the path already set before you. I know this, because I was to look for specific qualities in a single individual. You are that individual.”
Slae’s confusion only endured as he questioned the Angel, "How is my path set for me?"
She smiled as she explained further, "Yes, some destinies lay in wait for the one whom seeks to grab it, others are required to find theirs. Even so, few are predestined even before the beginning of time."
Suddenly the ground moved violently, as if dodging some unseen force. A rupture zagged across the sky and everything began to grow out of focus.
The Angel of Light smiled at Slae, as if oblivious to the changes around them, "Now it is time for you to go to the planet Earth, where I took you from. There you shall learn of the path awaiting you."
"Earth?" Slae began, but was once again hushed.
"Earth, yes. It is in great turmoil and upon its fate hinges the future of the Universe. This particular planet is special with many a battle for the Universe being been won within it." She smiled at Slae expectantly.
"Heroes. . ." Was all he could manage before being cut off again.
"Earth has no one to fight for it anymore, so that is what you must do. I know it may seem unfair, but it is your purpose, something you will soon realize. Do not fret, child. Though your path will be the hardest, it will be on that same path that you shall discover yourself."
The rupture grew, and the ground whipped again, more violently this time.
"I cannot keep you here any longer. Understand that it was hard to bring you here – even more so to keep you here, which is why you must go. When you return you will find that you are clothed. The clothing is the same I found you in with some touches of my own. It is made of diamond threading and woven tightly."
Slae wanted to say something, anything, but the pressure was intense. Everything seemed blurry and wavy as The Angel faded away. He began falling, desperately working to regain his balance. There was nothing under his feet, nothing to grab and yet he could see the island. Or is itfarther away now, He thought. Slae tried to reach for it, it was at his fingertips and if only he could grab the edge of the island he would be ok.
Chapter 2 Tangible Dream
Sweat dripped from Slae’s body as he awoke sitting upward, his hair flipped over head. Slae parted his black hair with his fingers taking in his surroundings; he was in a forest, thick and green. Birds chirped, sticks snapped as animals scampered about and chipmunk chatter dropped from above. Next to him was a circle of moss covered stones with a small pit in the midst of them filled with leaves.
Slae took note of several layers of leaves covering something just a foot away from the pit. Leaning forward he swiped away the soil and leaves that had collected on a small wooden box. The box looked like it would have been magnificent at one point, however the passage of time was not kind. It was now faded and rotted to the point of breaking. When Slae tried to open it up the leather strap pulled off the soggy wood of the lid. A second attempt caused the lid to break away from the rusted hinges revealing the space within.
Inside was a simple envelope, old and fragile, leaning against the decomposed felt of the wall. Slae carefully removed the envelope and flipped it open to see its contents. It held a single languished newspaper clipping which he carefully unfolded. It was a black and white picture of a large man that stood upon a lavish stage. Before him was a grand podium of metal and marble that shimmered from beams of light. His arms were outstretched as he gazed out. He had remarkably smooth skin and dressed in dark robes that adorned his majesty. Writing in an unfamiliar language was etched into the fabric of the robes, predominantly along the torso; though the words did appear upon parts of the sleeves.
Barely legible words were beneath the picture, stating:
Today we are graced by our beloved Omnipotent Pontiff as he addresses many of our concerns about our future. Since his takeover of our planet, just one week ago, all weapons have been disposed of and for the first time peace reigns throughout. We are now left to discover our own happiness and place in life
Setting down the article Slae’s mind reeled; how could I not remember something like this! Slae knew this to be what the Angel spoke of; his reason for being here. Even so he wished there was something from his memory to aid in knowing what to do. While deliberating over what he knew or rather what he did not know, Slae realized he was no longer naked.
He was clothed in a fine red cloth that draped over both shoulders. The cloth crossed over his back and chest then into more of the same material, wrapping tightly about his waist. Here it was clipped together by a metallic clasp of gold made in the form of a bolt of lightning. The draping cloth hung just past a black belt made up of several strips of fabric.
The belt struck Slae as odd, for it seemed like something was missing. Shrugging it off he looked past the belt to red pants strapped onto his waist. The pants were made up of the same fabric as the rest of his clothing and hung loosely from his thighs. The clothes were soft and incredibly comfortable. Yet as he pulled on the fabric it showed no evidence of frailty. The entirety of the outfit was also clean despite having woken on a forest floor.
As he fingered his new apparel, a gale of cold air hit him. The wind set his attention upon a pristine lake a short ways off. A passage between the trees created a perfect clearing to it, save a few shrubs and weeds. Slae stood up and began to heel toe it toward the water's edge, gaining a sense of uneasiness.
The closer he walked to it the colder he became and yet sweat seeped from his pores. Slae knelt near the water and slowly leaned over with his heart pounding; remembering what happened last time. Last time, he thought as he stepped back from the water, was it all a dream?
He could remember the Angel of Light so well and how his image attacked him prior. So real and yet he awoke in a forest, presumably where the Angel last found him. He figured it was just a dream; still the box was rotted and the paper decrepit.
Slae decided the only way to find out was to look into the waters and open his mouth. Heart pounding and his mind screaming he leaned over the waters. Fighting against himself to spread open his jaw he squinted in anticipation and his arms shook. Nearly choking on his own relief seeing his teeth and tongue; he continued to stare, now convinced he dreamt it all.
Satisfied, he watched himself smile back, “but I’m not smiling,” he realized out loud.
He felt his face. His lips were not curled and his mouth was still parted open, unlike his grinning reflection. The image held his every move, smirking mockingly. Reaching out Slae felt the water; it was solid and icy cool. He looked out at the lake, seeing the water was as glass and the woods no longer moved with life.
Slae locked eyes with the image, tense with fear he grabbed his head yelling to the image, "Who are you!?"
With both shock and horror the image calmly replied, "I am you." Slae was frozen, he had no way of responding.
Nonetheless his reflection read his thoughts and said, "I do not know how, but I am you and you are I."
Finding his words again Slae responded, "Are you the one whom the Angel of Light spoke of?"
Grinning wickedly the reflection replied, "I am as empty as you; all that I know is that you are nothing without I." With that Slae tried to speak but found his words cut off.
The image opening his mouth, showed the blazing ball of fire made up of white flame. Slae slammed his fist into the solid surface. To his surprise there was no pain. Instead the glass like surface shattered in a wave becoming mist in the wind.
"You think you did that?" The voice echoed in his head, "Hmm."
Sweat dripped from his brow as he looked across the waters. Everything appeared normal as animals brought the forest back to life. Shuddering uncontrollably Slae stood still looking over the lake, trying to wrap his mind around everything; it just seemed too much for him.
A whooshing sound broke through the customary noises of the forest and found its way to Slae's ears. He turned about and went back to the box where he scooped up the only belonging he had; the newspaper clipping. After carefully folding and placing the paper into a pocket, he headed for the place the sound originated from.
It was not long before the forest split into a long clearing, and in the split laid black asphalt. It stretched in opposite directions into curves separating the woods. Being the first man-made structure Slae had come across he decided to follow the road. Hoping it would lead to civilization.
He did not know how he knew it was man-made or that the material was asphalt. However, such knowledge seemed so natural to him that it did not strike a single chord of surprise. Lost in thought he stepped on the pavement, unaware of the vehicle making its way around the bend.
When the driver caught sight of the man in the road it was too late. Having little time to react he blew the horn and tried to steer clear of Slae. Slae pivoted in time to meet the hot grill of the large truck face first.
The front of the truck collapsed as metal cringed and crackled, making a horrible sound. The entirety of the front wrapped about Slae's body. The back of the truck hinged to the right, taking the front with it and breaking off from Slae. As it twisted sideways the momentum of the mass caused the truck to lift from the ground and flip into the air. Slamming hard into the pavement the vehicle broke open and slid to a halt on its side.
Slae simply stood motionless and untouched as he scanned over his own body. Not even his clothing was damaged. Slae was so impressed that he briefly forgot the vehicle and its driver until moans of agony gathered Slae’s attention.
Turning, he watched in shock as several poorly dressed people emerged from the wreckage. They were bleeding and badly battered. Some began to take note of Slae, for he was quite different looking. He was considerably taller than them and alien-like with his large black eyes.
Regaining his composure, Slae moved toward the group of injured people intent on helping. However, the closer he became the more frightened they were. He stopped several feet away and for the second time he could sense that something was not of himself.
Not knowing from whence it came, Slae searched deep within and discerned that he was sensing anguish. Plunging even deeper into his own psyche he discovered the pain and fear originated from the people nearby. Being lost in thought his gaze unknowingly settled on a middle-aged woman.
Slae then made eye contact with each one, saying, "Please do not be afraid. I will not harm you. I need -" His voice was then cut off by the distant sound of sirens quickly approaching.
Those who could still move began to scatter into the woods and Slae followed suit. He caught up with one of the younger men and grabbed him by the arm.
The young man tried to squirm free and shouted frantically, "Let me go, let me go! We need to get free of them!”
"Please, I need your help, you do not understand," Slae pleaded with him.
The man just continued to shout, "No, you don’t understand! They won’t let us be free! Now let me go, they will kill me if you don't!"
The man began to pound on Slae, kicking and punching and flailing about in every way he could. Slae unknowingly tightened his grip on the man as he began to feel something creeping up from inside.
It was intense, dark, and yet fulfilling. He was not sure why, but he felt he needed to stop it. But as the man pounded on him, the greater it grew. Slae looked at the man in his grasp and felt angry, but could not fathom why he did. He did however understand why the man was trying to get away and still could not bring himself to let go.
Slae decided to stop the emotions from taking over when a chilling voice came from within, "No . . . do not stop I."
A numbing sensation was quickly followed by a frenzy of pain making its way up Slae's spine. He finally let go of the man who looked over his shoulder at Slae and took off running grabbing at his arm. Slae tried to move but only stumbled to his knees, his fingers digging at his forehead.
The man stopped and turned back toward Slae appearing to have second thoughts on abandoning him, but the sirens were closing in. The man took off running again as the flashing of lights lit up the edge of the forest. Up ahead was the band of other fugitives disappearing over a hill.
The man sighed in relief at the distance he put between him and road. He blinked and turning back smashing hard into a large object. Looking up the young man turned pale as his eyes met the eyes of Slae whose appearance had changed slightly. His long black hair danced about as static arcs erupted between strands and thin golden bands rimmed his otherwise solid black iris and pupil.
Slae's eyes were held wide and his eyebrows arched inward baring a large toothy grin. He reached down and grabbed the man who begun shaking in fear.
"Who do you think you are, running from I?" Slae said through his teeth, still smiling as he gave the man a look over.
The man stuttered out the words, "Don't hurt me, I'll do anything."
"You will do nothing, for nothing can you do." Slae said, no longer smiling but still keeping his lips parted, showing his teeth.
For a moment Slae was in awe of himself. The power he wielded was beyond anything he imagined possible. However, with the rush of power came darkness; wild and untamed. His mind filled with overwhelming thoughts that were not his own. Even the words he spoke felt disconnected from himself.
He looked about, seeing everything differently than before; understanding everything differently than before. For now it all seemed so fragile and easy to manipulate. Slae then noticed a frightening sensation: that his willpower over his own body was slipping away. He made a more careful estimate of the evil that filled his heart and mind. He needed to stop it now.
But it was too late. Against his own will, he uttered words that fell silent. Words of power that he somehow knew were of a forbidden magic. As the words were spoken, they were lost to an immediate wind and a devastating effect took hold.
The young man, stopped fighting, stopped shaking and began coughing. When he coughed, smoke and burnt skin exited from his mouth. His eyes filled with tears and widened with fear as his life came to a tragic and meaningless end. His skin dried out and eyes became bloodshot.
Slae spoke again and likewise, they were not his words, "Behold, I's power."
As the man stopped moving his pale skin turned ashen and became hard. Then without warning, he was swept away in the wind as ash. The horrific depiction of this power brought Slae back with shock. He was in control again.
He turned and began to stumble through the woods, his eyes held wide by terror. His mind tried to keep up with his emotions, but it was failing. His body began to feel the impact. The emotions unbridled his focus over his thoughts. Pushing deeper into the forest a sudden pain in his spine and head began working away at him.
After faltering between trees for several minutes, Slae twisted his ankle and smacked a trunk with his right shoulder. The impact with the tree threw him off balance and onto the ground. Attempting to stand he just collapsed on his stomach. Pain, intense numbing-pain, filled his head along with images that made no sense to him. They were of only death and destruction; nothing more. Slae felt the images were not his memories. Regardless he did his best to focus on them as they could be clues to whom or what he was.
Alas, his focus was lost and his eyes closed. The images faded with the pain as he succumbed to the calm of sleep.
Chapter 3 Evil Within
Slae awoke to a noise in the woods, taking in a quick gasp of air. Enough time passed for the sky to have darkened. Silvery stars glimmered through the canopy above and dew settled upon everything. A little ways off lights danced about in frenzy, and then stopped to gather together. Most of the lights all aimed at the ground, others did a parameter sweep.
A deep husky voice said, "One went this way."
Another voice broke through, "By the looks of the trail heading that way, I'd say he was hurt. Might not be far ahead."
A small moment of silence, then the husky voice said, "Agreed, we'll follow this trail. Hopefully, whoever it is, will lead us to the rest."
The flashlights danced about again, as they headed straight for Slae, who was lost in a daze. He was still unsure if he was awake yet or if this was another dream. He sat upward, brushing the leaves and dirt from his face while awaiting the approach of the flashlight-wielding men.
It was not long before the lights were upon Slae, with the men all in a murmur. They were taken aback by Slae's alien appearance and stature. Despite their murmuring, they seemed completely unafraid.
The husky voice spoke calmly, "Stand up young man, and tell me your name."
Slae slowly made it to his feet, causing all the men to step back in awe as he towered over them. Even the tallest among the men only came up to Slae's chest.
"My name is Slae," he said as he squinted, trying to look past the light.
Slae was startled when suddenly the flashlights dimmed, being filtered out by his squinted eyes. Everything behind the lights turned a dull blue, allowing Slae to see clearly, regardless of the lights shining in his face.
The men were all dressed in uniform, with shaved heads and markings on the right side of their necks. Each one looked just like the other, with varying height and a facial expression of upmost seriousness. When he stopped squinting the lights flooded his vision once again.
"Where are you heading, rebel." The husky voiced man put emphasize on the last word.
"Rebel?" Slae queried.
"Yes rebel. Now where are the others? Tell me and I might let you live."
Slae stood in silence for a moment, before trying to reason with the man, "I am not sure what you mean. You see, I cannot remember anything, other than my given name."
Mockingly, the man replied, "Oh, how convenient for you. And how did you come about with such memory loss?"
Slae was not about to explain to the man his situation, choosing to not reply.
"Silence, then? Well, so that you are aware you were with a group of rebels. Traitors to us all. There is a steep price for such a crime." With a wave of his flashlight the other men began to surround Slae.
"Answer my questions and we'll go easy on you, don't, and . . . well, I think you get the picture. Now, where has everyone gone?"
"I was not with the others, I am here alone. I do need you-" Slae was cut off by the husky voice.
"Refuse to cooperate? Alright then, get him!" He said, before stepping back.
As soon as the man stepped back from the circle, flashlights and small rods that produced electricity started battering Slae. Slae dropped to his knees covering his face. He tried to speak, but the electrical surges kept cutting off his voice. He twitched hard with each strike.
The husky man watched, waiting for Slae to collapse. But alas, Slae endured. The husky-voiced man was shocked; never before witnessing someone remain conscious during such an assault. The electrodes on the rods were enough to send one to the floor in spasms. Yet Slae seemed only slightly fazed by them.
"Alright! Enough!" He shouted, as he returned to the circle, looking at Slae, who was breathing heavily.
Keeping his composure he pressed Slae further with questions, "Are you going to be more cooperative now?"
Unknown to the husky man, Slae was battling within himself. A great force was attempting to break free – a battle that Slae was rapidly losing. Suddenly the man lost his calm composure, backhanding Slae. His knuckles crackled as if he had hit metal instead of flesh causing him to yank his hand back. The fingers were mangled, bent in all directions and he writhed in pain.
Slae suddenly looked up in a flash, smiling. However, despite his smile, he was struggling to understand what was happening to him. It happened before, when he had unwillingly murdered the man trying to escape. He knew it originated from the other being residing within, but it was a question of how.
Slae could see through his eyes and mind simultaneously, as if he was somehow part spectator. He could still sense he had most of the control over his body, yet the control was tainted by another force. Slae began to fear what he would do now. Understanding he might not be able to stop all the actions of his own body.
All the flashlights and electrodes sparked and burst into an instantaneous flame. The men dropped the flash lights onto the ground where they disintegrated into smoldering debris. In a cold rush, the darkness of the night flooded over them.
All the men stepped back as Slae slowly stood. His silhouette loomed over them in the midst of their small circle. The men were not sure what frightened them more: the cause of the darkness or that Slae seemed larger than before.
Like a nightmare, Slae's fury unleashed at blinding speed toward one of the men. The man’s blue military-styled uniform shredded with his body; his shattered remains flung through the forest. Some of the men turned and fled while the bravest of the group pulled out guns to open fire on Slae.
“No. . .what did I do?” Slae said to himself.
Almost completely ignoring the bullets, Slae watched the men fleeing away and frowned. He glanced about for a moment and in unison the men stopped firing as he reached for a mid-sized tree. The men gaped in awe as Slae uprooted the entire tree. Angling the tree like a spear it began to moan and crackle and in seconds the entire tree shed all its branches.
Slae watched through his own eyes, knowing what was to come. Though wishing to stop it, he did not know how. He was mostly in control of his body. He even commanded his body to take the tree, but even so the command was tainted by another’s thoughts. He was not acting alone. Now the tree, formed into a spear and the power used to do so felt foreign to him. Just as strange thoughts were being implanted into his thoughts so were the foreign powers.
Slae then aimed the tree at the furthest runner. With amazing grace he pitched his arm forward and the spear glided from his fingers and through the forest. The men still circling Slae could not see the result of the onslaught, but the sickening sound of bones cracking and a man's death-cry was enough for them.
The men now knew better than to run and simply stood in consternation. The remaining guns hit the ground as men began begging for mercy.
"Alright! Enough! Men: let's move out!" The husky voice shouted orders, but then said just above a whisper, "We'll let ‘it’ take care of him."
Following orders the entire squad took off, but its well composed leader remained behind. He began to circle Slae, looking him up and down, all the while clutching his broken hand.
"You do not scare me. If you have seen the things I have, you would be cowering before me. Begging me to spare your life, giving me the information I want. But since words are not enough to describe, I must demonstrate it to you."
Slae responded in a dead voice, "I doubt it."
The man stood just long enough to chuckle mockingly, before Slae reacted in anger. Slae kicked the husky-voiced man in the chest sending him through the forest. He bounced off the ground like a stone across water before getting mangled around a crooked tree. Slae turned to get the rest of the men, but found something he did not expect.
It stood just taller than a normal man, but did not resemble one. It was fully erect upon two legs. The mainframe of the mechanized creature was of a dark-grey metallic and cylindrical body. Upon the body were several vents and a screen occasionally acting as its face. The legs were joined at the torso that connected to the housing by way of a large circular joint. At the knees the legs were triple jointed, which united two shin-like structures and two large metal feet.
The arms protruded straight out from the body and composed of a big flat-headed club at the end. However, the arms had a far greater function than just pummeling; which became evident by way of small angular-cracks in the club. Both the shoulders and what could be considered its elbows were triple jointed as well, just like the knees.
What caught Slae's attention the most was the metal that encased the over-sized computer. The metal appeared solid, but was a smoky-grey to black that blurred with the machine’s every movement.
Moving toward Slae gears grinded so silently that a gentle breeze would blot out the noise. He watched it and began to mimic it with a dissatisfied frown upon his face.
"Is this the best they have to offer? Some blind robot?" Slae questioned it.
The machine halted at those words and the grinding became loud as its clubs broke apart in a graceful fashion. Within the blur of a second’s time, the clubs formed into a fully functional hand with double jointed digits. The hands lunged toward Slae, gripping him by his shoulders, slamming him against a tree.
The machine sounded off angrily, "I am no blind machine! I am alive by way of the Shadow and think for myself!"
"You sure have a funny way of showing it," Slae said with a smile.
The machine released its grip on Slae, but before Slae's feet touched the ground it reared its right arm back backing Slae across the face. The force of the blow caused the tree to split where Slae's body hit and it began to descend on top of the machine.
Its hands separated at the palm and black rope-like structures flung forth wrapping about the tree. In an instant the dark tentacles engulfed the tree, destroying it completely. The dark tentacles returned to their origins as the palms sealed back up.
"What are you. . ." Slae said, as more of a statement to himself.
"I would ask you the same if my desires to destroy you were not greater. Otherwise my curiosity would bid me to do so," responded the machine, so coldly that it sent shivers up Slae's spine.
"There is that blind-machine mentality again." Slae responded, mockingly.
The metal encasing of the machine swirled violently for a moment and then reached for Slae again, but only grabbed the air. However, the machine spun about, while its hands formed a large cannon. The cannon came face to face with Slae who stood stunned.
"Oh. . ." Was all Slae managed before a black beam swallowed him whole, absorbing everything in its path.
The arm of the machine whipped about in a cowboy fashion before the barrel-end halted just below a vent in the casing. A blast of air cut over the opening of the barrel. Then, through the darkness of the night and the evaporating beam, the machine found something that greatly troubled it.
Slae was untouched, still standing, grinning through his clenched teeth. His hatred now flowed stronger than ever before. The machine stumbled backward at the sight, unable to imagine how Slae survived. Then Slae brought his hands close together, fingers spread with palms stretched and powerful charges of electricity arced. The electricity erupted between his hands, breaking his tenuous grasp onto the power. The rupture caused both the machine and Slae to stumble backwards.
In unison, both regained composure and took a stance. The machine raised its canon and Slae brought his hands back together; palms spread open toward each other once more. The arcs formed between his hands as the machine's canon fired. The power churned in Slae's hand, before leaping forth with such tenacity that the black beam was broken apart. The force smashed hard into the machine, sending it flying in a violent twirl through the forest.
Its canon broke apart and morphed back into a hand as it continued through the air; bouncing off large trees and breaking through smaller trees. The hands of the machine launched from the arm. Being bounded by a shadowy chain the hand wrapped about a huge tree, stopping it immediately. The trick worked to stop the mechanized creature with a hard crash into the ground.
The force of the stop caused the arm of the machine to split and break apart. Circuitry and a strong skeletal structure was all that kept it from breaking completely. Standing back onto its feet, half broken and unable to fight anymore the machine lowered its guard.
Slae was upon it quickly; ready to strike again, furious and powerful he stood over the machine. His hair had grown shorter, and begun to move about from tiny eruptions of electricity. His eyes fierce and charged, nearly glowing a soft yellow. Slae's skin turned more golden than gray and he gritted his teeth harder, caring only to destroy his opponent.
The machine looked away not wanting to see his own demise when his display started to scroll with information about Slae. It also began to reimage Slae showing several variations of him. Slae side-armed the machine, sending it tumbling backward several feet, but it did not care. All it could do was look upon its assailant with confusion.
The machine’s new view of Slae was unlike Slae's current form. Instead it could see multiple representations of him - one as Slae himself, the other was barely an outline. Somewhat matching his current form. Another had no image, but was only indicated by data scrolling past its hud.
The machine suddenly remembered the threat to its existence and looked about frantically. Finding just a sliver of a shadow being cast by the moon peaking through some clouds it reached for it. Slae lunged for the robot, but it was swept into the shadow where it disappeared.
Slae became furious. He was tempted to obliterate the entire surrounding area, but thought better of it. He turned about, seeing no one else and realized he lost his bearings during the fight.
He decided to just continue in one direction that would unknowingly lead him deeper into the forest. Through the night Slae wrestled with his other half, fighting for control.
As he fought for his body an inner voice kept taunting him, "Come on, and let I out. You are so frail, unlike I. But with I, yes I, you will be powerful. There will be no more pain or struggle."
Slae was tempted to allow him the pleasure of control, but sensed it would only lead to even greater evil. Yet the strain to maintain control was next to unbearable.
The inner voice taunted more, "You make I sick! There is no strength in you - only I!"
"Enough!" Slae shouted.
In that very instance he was brought back to himself. His eyes went wide as if seeing everything for the first time. It was like waking from a vivid nightmare of the worst kind and remembering every unspeakable moment.
The shock of it caused Slae to drop to his knees, as he brought his trembling hands into view of his face.
The voice spoke up once more, "Do not be so weak. You were defending yourself, of course with I’s power."
Slae responded fiercely, so not to show any lack of confidence in his words, "And what of the ones whom showed no danger to me? I may not be as strong as you, but I could have easily fled-" Slae was cut off.
"Yes, like a coward."
That ended the conversation. Slae knelt there with head hung in shame. He was not sure what to think or where to go. He had not been returned to Earth a full day yet and already had caused more death than he could ever forgive. Then without warning or surprise, the pain started again. It moved up his spine and images moved into his head, blinding his vision.
Slae tried to fight it and clear his head, but it was no use. The pain had him subdued and the images turned dreamlike with his unconsciousness taking root.
Having strayed from consciousness, Slae found himself standing on a barren wasteland within a dream. With him were hundreds of thousands of men dressed in white-gray high-tech equipment. As he looked about he realized he was not on Earth anymore, but some other place. There was no air to speak of and no atmosphere. Strange stars brightened a black sky with an immense green-hued planet a distance away.
Slae turned to see a man dressed in the same gear as all the others, but adorned with medals of honor. His head was covered in a clear material that fit tightly and a tiny tube - no thicker than a few hairs. Slae somehow knew this tube was used to feed oxygen to the helmet.
Slae leaned into the man and asked, "Where are we?"
The man turned and looking up at him with a skeptical look said, "Sir, commander! We are on the Dead Star! Your men are ready for battle!"
"Dead Star? Battle?!" Slae was astonished.
"Yes Commander! All the remaining forces of our enemies throughout the galaxy have gathered upon this surface, a place of their choosing. It is a place of great importance, a holy place! Since no other rock in the galaxy burns as this one did long ago, but do not fret my Commander. We are ready, and the galaxy shall bow before us once again!"
That is when Slae noticed his reflection on the man's helmet. He was not himself. His hair was much shorter, and spiked. Instead of black, the hair shone with a silvery-essence. His eyes were gray with a golden iris and red pupils. His clothing was also different, being a green and blue mix. The shirt was loose but of one solid piece tying into a belt with metal vertical strips. A similar strap ran from one shoulder to a plate upon his chest. Before Slae could digest it any further, he was no longer the Commander. Slae now watched from above.
Everyone stood in perfect stillness for some time. Then in a flash, the military moved upon the forces of their enemy, consisting of several races. Outnumbered one to a thousand the army of the Commander ruthlessly slaughtered their enemies without loss.
The man standing next to the Commander winced in pain as his body began to separate into large pieces of flesh. Anger grew upon the Commander's face as he turned to witness legions of the enemy creeping up from behind. Behind them they hauled by chains a large and curious weapon.
The weapon fired what looked like thin horizontal lines of light. As quickly as the weapon all action slowed to a crawl. The only exception was the Commander, who walked straight toward the ammunition being fired at him. Even the shot moved slow in comparison to his walk. When the Commander made contact with the lines of light, the lines erupted into particles, evaporating away.
Once he was near the men, time returned to normal speed. The enemies he now stood in front of flinched in shock. They all turned, jolting in terror, but it was no use. In sheer anger the Commander clenched his fist and crossed his arms. Whipping them out to his side while flexing his muscles, he sent a large blue wave of energy from his body. It raced toward the men. The shockwave instantly caused each victim to erode, destroying their suits and cauterizing their flesh.
Once the wave had engulfed all the enemies it simply vanished, leaving smoldering corpses about the stony ground. His body morphed, then blurred for an instant as his back transfigured into his front. Without hesitation the Commander began to move at a brisk pace back to his post.
A whisper began to rise in the crowd. The battle slowly came to a halt as all the warriors looked into space at an approaching star. It was white and brilliant, but very small. Before Slae could make out what it was, his dream changed perspective. Though he could not make out who was attacking the Commander’s troops, they were fear stricken. Being tossed about as if nothing more than rag-dolls; the invisible terror headed straight for the Commander.
Just seconds before it broke through the remaining crowd the dream went black and a voice cried out, "With the power of the lords within me, through the flames of vengeance! By the powers of hatred that blots my very soul! You shall be damned to this star to walk through the fires of justice for all eternity!"
In the darkness a burst of white fire upon a rocky and celestial body, was just a dot in the distance. However, the dot soon grew closer, revealing its sharp and white flames that licked at the surface of the freshly ignited star. As the gap closed an agonizing scream could be heard, increasing in volume. The star was now close enough to Slae that he became face to face with a ghastly form of the commander shrieking and whipping his head about in pain.
Chapter 4 Chosen Path
Several weeks had passed since Slae had fought the machine and he often contemplated on the things it said. Particularly the part about the Shadow giving it life; it certainly appear sentient and Slae could sense something about it. He did not know why, but it troubled him. The Shadow could be used to bring inanimate objects or machines to life; giving them thought and passion.
When he was not thinking on the Shadow, he would spend a chunk of his time residing deep in the forest learning how to meditate. Always trying to learn something new about himself. Trying to get a glimpse into his memories or find who he is. Often times though, he would only reveal emptiness; a void left unfilled.
However, it was not for nothing. He discovered a great strength within, an incredible strength even. At first he thought it was of his other half, having no recollection of it. Yet, it felt natural to him, much like his name did. His power was of physical proportions; shielding him and allowing him to do considerable feats.
Deciding to test his strength, Slae happened upon an abandoned quarry. There he lifted large boulders and inoperable machines with such ease it proved to be no test at all. While there, Slae learned he had astonishing speed. There was no way to tell how fast he was; only that he could cover vast distances swiftly.
Yet, he felt he had only achieved a portion of his own abilities. He tried to meditate on it and bring forth more of his own power. And despite not having heard a word from the other half, he continued to torture Slae.
Often times Slae would manage some great feat of power, such as producing lightning or even fire from his hands. As quickly as one of these abilities would arise, it faded away. As a result, it did not take Slae much time to realize that the other half was toying with him.
Slae decided to stop meditating on different aspects of power and only focus on his own strength. Perhaps, he thought, it is all I am capable of doing?
As time pressed on, Slae’s thoughts drifted more and more to his actions in the forest and what he allowed to transpire. He had sat back and reveled in powers that did not belong to him and then wielded them to kill. The more he thought on it the more he despised himself for not being strong enough to stop his other half.
Additionally, Slae began to struggle with his quest and all the difficulties that lied ahead. He had never felt more lost, having no real direction of where to go or even where to begin. Yet, for reasons he could not figure out, he knew that he was far from ready for the tasks ahead.
One day, while deep in thought, Slae noticed the surrounding forest had begun to change. He could feel a thickening of moisture in the air and perceived a thinning of trees as he walked forward. But he could not make out what laid just past the trees.
He stopped and looked down just in time to see the grass and leaves being slowly swallowed by whiter than white sand. The ground where he stood started to build up carrying him up with it. And trees fell away until he stood atop of a large hill in a clearing above everything.
Water burst forth from the ground and the entire forest sank beneath it until even the tallest tree vanished beneath its depths. Yet the waters continued to rise until they reached Slae's feet. Lightning struck the middle of the sandy island causing the sand to alter and coalesce into blood-red brick.
A wooden and twisted branch broke through the ground, holding a dark swirling orb. On the opposing side of the island formed a second orb of light; a light that represented all the good left in the universe. With a thunderous noise a blinding light exploded out of thin air in the middle of the island. Slae knelt in the water, averting his eyes. He did not know why he was here again, but he feared for the worse.
"Slae, be not afraid." The Light spoke.
"Angel!" Slae cried out, "Help me . . . please. Break me from this wretched curse I have been burdened with. Surely you know everything I have done."
Slae felt so much goodness flowing from her that he could not help but to cry for a release from his own misery. Knowing the evil in him, he was compelled to drop before her in shame.
She replied, "That I do, which is why you are here. I also know that you do not fully act on your own accord - you struggle with another. I assure you my child, this was not my intent."
She moved toward him gracefully, walking just inches above the ground. Every step she took caused the air to ripple like water and a gentle breeze to usher out from beneath her steps. The Angel stopped just short of Slae, and looked skyward with arms raised. Her skin began to brighten and crackle with energy.
"This will hurt." She said as her hands wrapped about his head and pressed into his temples.
Slae grabbed her arms as what felt like torrents of pain flooding his brain. He felt numb and limp, with his mouth agape. He wearily looked up at the Angel who was even more focused than before.
As if tossed from his own body, Slae found himself in third person, watching as he quickly altered into another form. He had short-spiked silvery-hair with white highlights. His pupils were like bottomless pits of deep-red, constricted by golden irises. His skin was so golden that it appeared as the metal itself, yet it was as soft as any other kind of flesh. Upon his chest formed a silver circle encompassing a single bolt of lightning, it was metallic in nature but looked as much a part of him as his own beating heart. Then Slae reached up and felt his own chest as if he thought something similar should be there as well.
A soft blue illuminated the air immediately about Slae’s transfigured body. As if at the flick of a switch he erupted into consciousness, breaking Quweaign's powerful grip and landing upon both feet. He turned to peer at Slae with evil intent and took a step toward him, but was stopped at the words of the Angel.
"Do not bother with him, wretched creature! You shall address me! Once we are done you, neither you nor Slae will remember anything."
He laughed for a moment then said, "Why have you separated him from his body? Do you not know that I wish it as I’s own?"
She replied, "You have become a hindrance, and I must know how you managed to survive the binding?"
"How should I know, I am as blank as he." He said while lazily pointing to Slae.
In the split of a second the Angel of Light seemed taller as her wings begun to fall apart; raining into the ocean waters below. Her hair pulled back behind her head on its own and the soft bright glow about her dulled to a brilliant yellow. The snow-white cloths floating about her started to move and twist about her body. As they moved around her they neared her skin until wrapping tightly onto her, still keeping the modesty of her form. Her blue eyes burned with fire and Slae was unable to take his own eyes off her as she moved toward his other half.
"Do not toy with me mortal! Release for me what you know or you shall be damned another ten-thousand years!" The Angel's voice cracked with deep and frightening tones.
To Slae's amazement, his other half did not even flinch and kept a smirk upon his face.
"You cannot scare I, for I fear nothing. No, not even one such as yourself." He replied mockingly.
The Angel's yellow haze intensified and the aura shot about her in bright, arc-like spouts of water as her voice boomed, "Mortal creature, you are in my realm where my power is unlimited! I can call the very heavens to descend upon and destroy your soul at mine choosing! Your life is in the balance! Should I end it, the universe would be better off!"
He continued to stand without flinching, but his smile faded as he spoke, "Alright, alright. I will tell you what I know." He paused for a moment to collect his thoughts, "Over the course of I’s fleshly imprisonment I have had nothing better to do, but try and remember I’s own life. Though I am far from being successful, I do recall bits’ and pieces."
"Go on." The Angel urged him.
"Your attempt to make him and I as one failed because I made it so." He said with a smirk.
"You speak falsely!" She said furiously.
"You cannot fathom how easy it was for I to do it. You underestimate I." He said with a frown upon his face.
"Then you have possibly doomed us all!" She said, as she raised a hand to strike him.
"Then you are doomed." He said shrugging his shoulders.
Quweaign lowered her hand. It was all she could do to not destroy him where he stood.
"Enough of this!" The Angel said with a wave of her hand.
Slae opened his eyes, and looked up at the Angel of Light sitting upon her throne in all her glory. He was back in his body and remembered nothing of what just happened. He scratched his head and felt as if he was awakening from a dream that was just out of the reaches of his memory.
"Slae," she began, "I have brought you here to share with you a story: in the first universe there was a young boy, much like you. He even looked a bit like you. He had depths to his power that no one, not even the heavenly hosts were aware of. He was unique and though adopted by parents on the first Earth, he never stopped feeling the loneliness in his life.
"The first universe in which he lived was much smaller than this one, containing only one planet with life. It was a place of paradise where no death or evil act ensued. But at the decision of a single High Council Elder, wicked desires were imprinted on the hearts of everyone. Done in the name of balance; most were ignorant of the change.
"Yet there were three magicians, men of renown whom used their gifts for entertainment. While they were aware of the change taking place; a new energy in their hearts. They did not know what they were tampering with. Having discovered immense new power in the strange energy they dissolved from a state of good to one of evil. Each one specialized in a fundamental law of the universe for the sole purpose of having power over it. The three as one could alter the physical realm to their choosing.
"With their hearts tainted, their desire for power grew. They used spells to bring the first group of people under their control and from there others followed. When they had a tenth of the world's population under their control they emerged for what they truly were. The powers of darkness had corrupted their appearance and no one recognized them. With their appearance came the first explicit act of evil.
"In front of an entire world watching they sacrificed a young woman. Being the first act that fed into the darkness it caused their powers to amass to even greater potential. The entire world soon went to war and armies of innumerable sizes fought against each other. However, that which opposed the three, was not enough.
"Every day their influence increased. Every day the forces of good lost numbers to the darkness and the entire planet fell under their rule. They ruthlessly killed anyone who did not share their wicked intent. Even so, all hope was not lost, for the young boy matured into a man. He decided that it was time to fight back. His generation was strong and hardened from years of conflict and survival. When they gathered to fight they proved themselves a threat.
"They had come close to assassinating the three magicians and were able to free the minds and hearts of many people. Yet it was still not enough. The three magicians found the place where their enemy resided, and destroyed it. From there the three were able to hunt down every living person who remained true to the powers of good. All that is, except the boy.
"Despite the wickedness of the three, the side of good had already procured it a warrior to fight. Alone he stood against the entire world; alone and unaware of the extraordinary power that was in him. It was at the very conception of his death that the power erupted. He had little control over these powers, powers that made the might of the three look like the mere entertainers they once were.
"In his first act, he charred half the planet, killing many in the process. Exhaustion then overtook him and he later awoke knowing what he had done. But in his awakening he was reborn with wisdom and knowledge from ages past. He knew the battle must continue if his planet had any chance of survival." She stopped suddenly and looked at Slae.
Slae was lost in the story, and asked, "Did he win?"
"That is not important; what you must understand is that in war there is risk and loss of innocent life. Some of these tragedies may be your fault while others may be out of your control. You can dwell upon them and let it destroy you. Or you can understand the risk, get back up and fight for what is right.
“This is not an easy battle and it will get no easier. Yet you must decide now on how it will define you or all is lost. Do you understand?" Quweaign was quite stern in her speech to Slae, who simply nodded.
Suddenly, in a blink, Quweaign was gone. Slae felt the sand shifting beneath his feet and through the water trees began to grow until they peaked above the ocean. Slae felt like he was falling as the ground rose quickly and the sand beneath his feet retreated just as fast. Suddenly he was standing in the forest, where he had been before. He sighed and did the only thing he could do; continue onward in his travels. He now understood that he had to fight for what was right and not allow the darkness to have any place in him.
Chapter 5 Live Shadows
Slae contemplated what the Angel of Light had told him: the story playing over and over in his head until he felt as though he had lived it. He knew she was right, but how could he just move on? He even wondered how much she truly cared about the stress he was under. A chosen hero, a fierce rivalry over his own body, no memory of himself and to make matters worse; he had to be careful how he tried to remember. Attempting anything without purposeful meditation yielded little and ended in blacking out; often in pain.
Slae pounded a nearby tree with the side of his fist and looked out through the forest. His frustration swelled and he hit the tree again which shattered at impact causing the rest to topple over in a clatter of cracks and deep creaks. He took a deep breath and relaxed, looking skyward at the thick forest canopy and wondered if any part of this would get easier.
Slae stood and began to make his way through the woods. As he did, he glanced over his shoulder. Since his return earlier in the day he had an uneasy feeling of being followed.
However, that feeling had worsened dramatically and he felt a sudden sense of danger. Everything seemed in place when the shadows began to dance about and Slae readied himself.
"Who is there!?" Slae demanded, but yielded no response.
Slae recalled the machine he fought before, how it disappeared into a shadow cast by the moonlight. He decided to just keep moving while remaining vigilant. He was not sure, but thought it a possibility that the machine or something similar could return in the same fashion. He would not let his guard down.
Nearly an hour passed and Slae had gotten lost in thought. His thinking drifted onto something he tried avoiding above all else; his memories. At times he felt he could nearly see something and this time was no different. If he could retrieve some information about himself, the episodes of pain and unconsciousness might stop. Slae stopped walking and tried to meditate on it. Like an itching in the back of his mind, it was right there. So close.
Suddenly, in an unstoppable flood, pain worked its way into Slae's upper spine and he fell to his knees gritting his teeth. Sweat seeped from every pore as he tried to remain conscious, trying to see the fuzzy images in his head. But no matter how he tried, his eyes phased into darkness, his ears heard nothing but a ringing and he went face first onto the ground; gasping for air.
A sound broke through the ranging in his ears, louder than thunder and continuous. Like a powerful wind. Slae opened his eyes, and found himself in the center of an unnatural whirlwind. He saw swirling light going skyward beyond the clouds and he could clearly see past it into the night at several buildings of wood lit ablaze.
People screamed and ran about in a panic trying to hide or get out of what appeared to be a village. One man in the village stood still amidst the fear stricken people. In his hand was a gun that he carefully aimed and fired at something in the dark. The round hit the target and exploded creating a silhouette just a ways off. Its form was void and appeared unnatural.
The man attempted to reload his gun but was struck by an invisible force that sent him flying. He shattered like glass upon impacting nearby objects. Most of the people became more frantic and stopped trying to hide. Instead they ran in wild terror.
The silhouette moved strangely, but was never visible even when standing next to the blaze of a building. It was as though the creature was made out of the night itself, impregnable by most light sources. Several people ran into a nearby house that had yet to catch fire and with a wave of his hand the entire building exploded from the ground.
Nothing was left, only a small hole where the foundation had been. Slae reached out a hand and gasped at what he saw. He touched the whirling wall but was struck back. He wanted to get out and stop the needless death and destruction. Slae watched helplessly as two red slits appeared in its head and a perfect funnel of flame shot out from them, catching several other buildings on fire.
It was unlike anything Slae had ever witnessed. The very essence of it absorbed the light keeping it hidden in blackness. Its shape was monstrous in appearance and for the first time Slae felt fear; true, unworldly fear that ate at him. He watched, still feeling helpless, as several of the villagers attempting to escape were locked in place. They tried to move, their muscles flexed and twitched yet they were impeded by another of the creature’s abilities. Slae could see the tense fear coming from them, a fear that was clearly visible within their wide eyes. The being stretched out a hand and one of the people, frozen in place, vanished and reappeared within his grasp.
Instantly the man fell limp, and the lifeless body began to rot at an accelerated rate as a curious aura moved from the man and into the creature’s arm. This continued until nothing but a skeletal figure rested upon his palm. Though Slae could not see it, he could feel the monster smiling. Slae felt sick as others suffered the very same fate.
Suddenly the air erupted about the being and everything left was sent flying. For miles around there existed only ground void of any plant, animal, or structure. A broken wasteland where the village and people existed just before.
Then, to Slae’s horror, the darker-than-night being turned its attention to Slae. Slae noticed it walked on air inches above the ground. As it neared, Slae stepped back until he hit the swirling wall of light behind him. He cowered, his heart beating hard and his breathing becoming erratic.
The being reached out and grabbed the swirling funnel of light with both hands; creating an opening. Just as Slae closed his eyes, the sound of rushing wind stopped, followed by a great calm. He dreaded the thought of opening his eyes. When several long seconds passed in silence, Slae forced his eyes open: two flowing red slits peered back at him in the darkness. A large, meaty and three-fingered hand reached through the opening to grab Slae. Just as the hand brushed against the red tunic swathed about Slae’s body he snapped awake.
When he opened his eyes he saw something dark and wispy evaporating from in front of him. Slae leaped to his feet and glanced about in bewilderment. It was difficult to see through the darkened forest as the sun was near to setting. He stood still, waiting, watching, until the sun turned the sky into a rusted orange glow. This is maddening, Slae thought. He turned to continue onward, not knowing what else to do. How could he confront something he could not see?
Slae was met by a darkened silhouette whose form was without feature and yet resembled a humanoid. It looked much like a thicker shadow than those cast by the surrounding trees. Slae stumbled back and was smashed in the chest and sent rolling. He leapt to his feet, as the creature rapidly covered the ground to him.
He barely managed a block with his arms as an attack came in again. The shadow pummeled him once more forcing Slae back onto one foot. Before he could regain his balance the shadow brought both hands together and swung them into Slae's chest, sending him backwards. Slae tried to stand, but found it hard to catch his breath. The attack had knocked the air out of him. The creature snickered and lunged for Slae, battering him to the ground.
In an attempt to expel some of his rage, Slae slammed his fist on the ground and forced himself to his feet, wheezing. The shadowy creature came barreling at Slae again, but Slae side-stepped and brought both clenched-fists into its back, forcing the creature to stumble forward, losing its balance. Before it could get back up, Slae stepped on it, pinning it to the ground.
"Who are you?" Slae demanded.
It laughed maniacally as its body broke apart from under Slae's foot and moved across the ground in a mixture of tar and black smoke that collected back into a humanoid form just out of Slae's reach.
"You have not heard of us? We are the shadowarriors, chosen of the Shadow itself!" It said with glee, its voice gargled and thick.
"Who is 'we'?" Slae questioned.
"We are never alone, you stand, even now, before the Shadow. It sees you and watches you." It giggled.
Slae had more questions, but the shadowarrior was apparently done talking as tentacles shot from its hand and belted Slae across the face. Slae stumbled backward, and tried to remain calm. Another assault sent him head over heels and he felt his will snap as foreign power began to course through him.
He stood, focused on trying to remain in control when he noticed something coming at him out of the corner of his eye. The shadowarrior had shot another tentacle and it barely missed Slae striking a tree behind him. The tree was cleaved in two and came crashing down toward Slae. As Slae knocked it to the side, the sly creature wrapped several of the black tentacles about Slae.
Slae was hoisted into the air, higher and higher until he was several feet above the forest. The creature slammed him down, branches breaking across his face and body until he hit the ground. The shadowarrior attempted to lift Slae from the ground but his tentacles snapped apart from the strain, and evaporated into the air. The creature gasped and stepped back as Slae stood facing away from it, and in a single step backwards, Slae cleared several feet between him and the shadowarrior.
Slae turned around, a smile forced across his face, his eyes wild with dark intent as gold played at the rim of his otherwise black irises. His hair shimmered with a silvery essence and became shortened in length.
Slae threw a fist into the creature's abdomen, but for a second it did not move, then the shadowarrior was sent flying backwards, its body breaking across trees and the ground. Slae grinned at his victory, but it was short lived as he heard laughter from behind.
"You cannot kill us!" It screamed sickeningly as it threw forth hundreds of black whips at Slae that devoured and broke everything in their path.
Slae snarled and put a hand out and the shadowy whips were deflected by an invisible force which Slae then released. The force blasted into the shadowarrior, sending it onto its back. The creature stood again and to Slae's displeasure it giggled some more. Slae could feel his actions becoming less and less his, and wondered if it would be best to let his other half come through for the fight.
Suddenly, with the motioning of Slae's hand, dozens of trees were ripped from the ground and aimed at the giggling shadowarrior. He looked slightly stunned and his laughter came to a halt as the trees impaled him. Slae's smile returned, but once again laughter broke out from some place behind.
"Quiet!" Slae shouted, spinning about releasing arcs of electricity at the shadow that tried to dodge the attack, but was not fast enough.
The attack sent the creature into spasms and Slae made a run for it, aiming his right hand at the shadowarrior. Electricity arced down his arm and a massive bolt of lightning blasted from his hand into the shadowarrior. When the attack cleared, all that was left was a small charred hole in the ground.
Slae smiled victoriously but quickly began to work against his other half for full control over his body. Though he had begun to understand the need of his other half, as he seemed more capable than Slae; Slae dreaded the idea of losing control. Even a small slip was more than he liked.
"Go ahead, and push I away. I get closer to freedom every time. It is not a matter of how anymore, only when." The voice came out of Slae's own lips.
Slae reasoned with himself that he could keep his other half at bay and yet a part of Slae knew he was probably right. As he turned away from the smoldering hole in the ground he felt a sharp pain in his left shoulder.
Slae arced sideways from the force of the pain and noticed a long black spike in his shoulder. Three more spikes stuck him in his chest, right arm and leg. Slae jumped for a tree, to hide behind it and tried to remove one of the black spikes.
Wincing in pain he could not budge the spikes, and just as quickly as he had gained ground against the one residing in his body, the pain broke his focus and allowed him to resurface. Slae stepped out from behind his cover and spotted the shadowarrior through a clearing in the forest. It was moving from shadow to shadow, and Slae easily dodged several more projectiles that were launched at him. Slae frowned, and grew increasingly frustrated at the shadowarrior who kept appearing just long enough to attack then vanish into a nearby shadow.
"Enough!" Slae shouted.
At the sound of Slae's voice, and under the power of his roar, the surrounding trees buckled and cracked apart. The shadowarrior leapt from the safety of a shadow to launch more attacks, but instead it slammed into the body of Slae. The shadowarrior was stunned just long enough for Slae to grapple it by the neck.
Slae's grip on the shadowarrior tightened, keeping it from fleeing. As the creature grabbed at Slae's hands, Slae give it a malevolent smile. Slae raised it above his head and then smashed it into the ground, causing the ground to compact and crack beneath the shadowarrior. Slae raised it again and smashed it into the ground several more times. The shadowarrior giggled and Slae back-handed it across the face, stopping its laughter.
"The Shadow will have you!" It angrily cried out at Slae.
Then the essence of the shadow began to pour from the shadowarrior, and gather onto Slae's chest. The shadowy spikes also broke down into the same viscous material. He dropped the shadowarrior and touched the black substance that begun spreading along his torso. It stuck to his fingers and quickly worked its way up his arm and under his skin. It was cold. Death could be felt within its clutches, and incoherent voices filled his head.
"Yes, yes! Soon you will be no more!" The shadowarrior shrieked in delight.
Slae looked up at the warrior, smiled, and his body began to glow a light blue while electricity arced about him. The shadow-substance that had attempted to cling unto him slid off Slae's body and landed in a splash along the forest ground. After hitting the ground the shadow hissed slightly, dissipating into the air. The shadowarrior growled and Slae dashed at it, but it stepped into a shadow being whisked away too quickly for Slae to grab.
"Get out here so I can end this!" Slae yelled.
Laughter broke from every surrounding shadow in the forest and amongst the laughter a voice filled the air, "You cannot kill us!"
With that, the shadows being cast by the trees under the moon-lit sky returned to normal. Slae could not explain it, but he could sense the threat of danger fading. Though the spikes that had plunged deep into his skin had melted away, he could still feel their effects. However, now he had to wrestle with his other half once again.
Despite his fear of losing control, a part of Slae loved the power he possessed and that same part burned with rage. Angry that the shadowarrior escaped, that he was not able to kill it and prove his strength to the Shadow. It was those thoughts and emotions that scared Slae the most: the violent reactions, the wanting to end life, any kind of life, the damage he was willing to inflict on it to do so.
He would not allow it to control him and run its course anymore. Slae fought to control his emotions and ultimately, his other half. He stumbled, moving from tree to tree, fighting to stop the push of his alter ego. This was by far the closest he had ever come losing control, but Slae would not let it happen, not now - not ever.
However, the inner fight was so intense, so hard that Slae began to feel like it would be easier just to give in. Maybe this purpose he was suppose to serve would be better in the hands of another; perhaps even someone like his twisted half. The only thing that kept him fighting was the evil he felt within that half and the fear of unleashing such a thing.
His other half must have been under a similar struggle for control and the battle just as intense. Yet, Slae's will to hold on proved greater, the fight for dominion suddenly receded, giving Slae full authority of his body again. He sighed, feeling relieved. His hair lengthened and blackened back to its original shade and the golden irises faded away.
While resting against a tree, Slae was lost in thought over this 'alter ego' within. The one thing that troubled him the most about this, was the nearly unstoppable driving force of emotions. They flooded over him and blotted out his own reasoning and sometimes his own thoughts. He looked ahead through dark forest, clouds gathering overhead, changing thoughts to the fight with the strange shadowarrior.
He wondered how he could win against something that could neither be harmed nor killed. He glanced about remembering the words of the shadowarrior, about the Shadow watching him. Slae wondered how long it would be before his next encounter. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the newspaper clipping and unfolded it. He stared at the picture, though the darkness made it hard to see much of the detail.
"Are you my real enemy? Or is it this 'Shadow'?" Slae asked aloud, knowing no answer would come easily.
He ripped the paper into many small pieces and let the strengthening wind take them from his hands. He pushed off from the tree and continued onward through the forest, and onward in his journey.
Chapter 6 The Angel's Gift
Before Slae had traveled far in the woods he came across another road. He followed it hoping to find civilization. Whenever he heard a vehicle, he would step into the woods and wait for it to pass. He did not want any more encounters with law enforcers, or whatever else might be coming. During his travels Slae made frequent stops, not for the sole purpose of resting, but for meditation.
In meditation he could clear his head and he found that his focus and willpower strengthened with each session. So did his knowledge of his own abilities. He had even encountered a moment of near remembrance without the encumbrance of pain and passing out; though nothing came of it.
However, sometimes in the depths of his meditation he could hear a faint voice calling out to him. The words were always impossible to understand, aside from his name. With it he could sense a deep presence of evil, not within himself but elsewhere.
Slae shrugged it off. For eight days he traveled, following the routine of dodging vehicles, meditating and learning something new about himself.
He discovered he had no need for food or water or even rest, for he had none and yet desired none. Though his meditations were a form of rest, Slae never felt the need to relax and replenish his energy. Likewise, sleep was impossible for him as he feared the surprise attack of a shadowarrior or something similar.
On the eighth day Slae was hiding on the edge of the woods, waiting until a vehicle passed. He stepped back onto the road; except his foot never met the pavement, and he was falling upward. He watched as the road with the surrounding woods shrunk in size. The woods spread for miles and the road looked like a gray line drawn through it. The forest blended with the desert and mountainous terrain. The scene bent with the curve of the horizon but was covered by clouds. He broke through the clouds and went higher. His heart pounded as the blue atmosphere faded away into blackness, and he found himself looking down upon the whole planet from space.
"Wow. . . ." Was all he could manage.
"Yes it is quite a sight to behold." Came the graceful voice of Quweaign, "And do not worry. You are more than capable of surviving in the vacuum of space, as well, by my presence we can communicate.”
Slae turned and drowned in her essence. For a moment he forgot where he was. Her wings stretched farther than Slae could see, and he wondered if they ever ended. Her glow was greater than that of the visible sun. Amidst all of the wonder a question entered his mind.
"How are you able to be here?" he asked.
"I can be anywhere I choose," she said. "However, like you in my world, I cannot persist here for long, lest they find me."
Slae gave her a puzzled look and she continued, "I am not hunted, but merely sought after by those who would have me answer for things which I have done."
Slae pushed, "What are these things?"
"I am the Angel of Light, guide of good, protector of the Light and provider of the balance over said powers." She paused, thinking of her next words, "However, I abandoned my post long ago with another, whose purpose served the opposite role and yet his heart was not tainted at the time. However, he does not matter as he has long since passed away."
The Angel’s glow dimmed as she went on, "We gave our responsibilities over to cold, careless objects of power that would stabilize the Universe infinitely without bias.
"Eventually, beyond the sight of anyone, the Universe outgrew them and they required hosts to channel their immense power and influence. These became known as the lords.
“Soon the lords abandoned their posts or turned to wicked intent and the Universe was allowed to fall into darkness; I was thus blamed and forced into hiding. You see, the natural desire of us all is darkness; yet even one heart of light, of good, can turn the tide of this war." She looked at Slae, and said, "This is you."
Slae turned away from the Angel, but she only went on saying, "This is why we are here. I know what it is you fight, a force from the Nether Region of the Universe. Darker than any darkness before it and capable of terrible corruption."
Slae turned back to Quweaign, but did not make eye contact. She touched his face and said, "My dear child, I can only imagine how lost you must be, how hard it is for you. However, should you choose to abandon your destiny, the Shadow will not only destroy this planet, but the Shadow will spread throughout the entire Universe. Few will survive."
"What is this Shadow?" Slae asked.
"According to ancient lore, even before my time in this realm; a dark force emerged from several mysterious, arcane, and yet horrific consciousnesses. In less than a days’ time it grew and destroyed the entire solar system, including its own fathers.
“Its horror spread so fast there was no warning of its arrival. The Shadow cared not for the living, only to grow and sustain its massive need for life. Those who sought to oppose it were left to ruins within their own twisted reality or were taken by death.
"Soon a quarter of the Universe was under its control and the High Council of the Heavens, using the last of their powers, sealed it off. In doing so, they created what has been called the Nether Regions. An area which only darkness rules. No one may ever enter or exit. But somehow, it has escaped and the Universe is left to fend for itself."
"How do I destroy it?" Slae asked.
The Angel of Light smiled at him, and said, "By the powers of the Light. It is the rarest of gifts, capable of cleansing darkness and devouring the Shadow. It can only be retrieved from the first sparkle of sunlight over the horizon of the dark side of a planet, which will be quite soon."
Slae watched in anticipation, and soon the rays of the sun burst forth over the planet. Brilliant rays of light dazzled the horizon until quickly fleeting off into the depths of space. The planet's rotation spread the sunlight along the dark half slowly and evenly. Slae turned to look at Quweaign who was holding something curious within the stretches of her palm.
"This is the gift of Light, able to aid you in the darkest of times, such as these." She said, holding it aloft toward Slae.
"How do I take it?" Slae queried.
"My dear child, the Light is not taken, nor is it given. It chooses only those who are in need and worthy of it." She watched it with hopeful eyes.
Its splendor was lost amongst Quweaign's own, however it still sparkled with amazing brilliance as it floated there in her hand.
"It is said that many with good intentions have tried to harvest its powers, but only one has ever been chosen."
"Who was that?"
"Let us hope it was you." She said looking up at Slae.
Suddenly the light moved from her hands to Slae. It hovered just before his chest where it began to shine brighter and brighter until Slae was forced to look away. Shattering like glass, wondrous wisps of light worked about his frame. Slae, through squinted eyes, watched as it began to fuse into his skin and as it did he began to glow. The glow intensified until it matched that of Quweaign's own glory and she was humbled before him. Then it gleamed one last flash of white wonder and fully entered Slae’s body, whose glow finally diminished back to his normal grayish-tanned skin.
Quweaign smiled brightly, and said to him, "The Child of Light."
Suddenly grabbing Slae’s arm she looked a far ways off. Quicker than Slae's mind could comprehend he was standing upon the familiar island and the Angel of Light moved to her seat of air and rested upon it. She looked weary for but a moment. Then remembering to be strong, she regained her complete composure and looked at Slae.
"You have questions that you wish to ask." She said knowingly.
"Well, yes. . .how do I use these powers?" Slae said.
"They will reveal themselves to you, but only when you need them. Trust in the Light Slae, for it will guide you." Quweaign responded.
Slae nodded, "I wonder if you could tell me of my dreams? I have had two and I do not understand what they are."
The Angel of Light beckoned for Slae to come closer. She then placed an open hand on his head and looked into his mind. She saw the war upon the barren rock bursting into flames and the beast who ravaged the innocent. She did not expect to see further, however more opened up to her. Within his consciousness she found the voice calling to him during his meditations. She instantly broke her hand from him with such force that Slae toppled backwards.
She breathed heavily, and looked away from Slae with her eyes still closed.
"What did you see?"
"Silence!" She said harshly, "I must think of these things for a moment.”
Slae recoiled and waited for her reply. For several seconds she sat there, her finger tips pressed into her forehead as she thought of his dreams.
"I have born witness to all that you dreamed, and even into your meditation." She paused to collect her thoughts, "The first dream is memory, but it is not your own. I believe this to have been the fate of your other half - there is little else to be said."
"What of the second dream?" Slae asked.
She peered at Slae for a moment as if she did not want to answer. "I do not know of the second dream, it is strange to me and I can make no sense of it." She said.
Slae pondered for a moment before asking, "Who should I be more concerned with? The Shadow, or the one whom has take control of Earth?”
"They are equal threats," she started. "Both are separate and yet work together for a single goal. It is unclear where he comes from or why they have spared your planet for so long. It is possible they are searching for something." She paused before ending with, "You must be careful."
She leaned forward and gave Slae a push back. He fell into the ocean waters. Against his struggle to stay afloat, Slae kept sinking deeper and deeper until he could no longer see the surface light. He finally began to move back toward the surface, realizing he was not with the Angel of Light anymore.
Slae broke through the surface of the water to a star-lit sky of such beauty it was hard to imagine that such evil existed. Looking around, Slae found he was in the water of a large lake; a short ways off was a sandy shoreline and a forest beyond. Slae swam for the shore and to the comfort of the woods. He felt the sand against his bare feet as he walked out of the water.
Slae nearing the forest decided to turn back and go to the sandy beach. He spent so much time in the cover of trees that a change in scenery might do some good. Lying on the beach, Slae closed his eyes and sighed loudly. He felt a little less lost, but it did not ease his troubles. He opened his eyes and peered at his hands wondering when the powers of the Light would make themselves known to him. Would it be a power at his disposal or would he have to relinquish a part of himself to it? Despite his lack of knowledge he found himself anticipating his next encounter with his enemy, anxious to see the new powers in action.
Extra Sneak Peeks
Below is a further peek into the book, starting with a large section of the next chapter and some mostly random picks from the book. I hope you enjoyed the preview thus far and I look forward to you reading the full book!
Chapter 7 Horror of the Shadow
At the break of day Slae completed his meditation. He rose to his feet. As he stood he stretched his stiff legs and arched his back. He looked at his surroundings and with the aid of the rising sun and he was able to make out a thin layer of crumbling asphalt. The road lay on the opposite side of the lake a few dozen feet from the shoreline. There was no need for haste as he felt no sense of urgency; yet the looming threat bared down on him.
Slae never really questioned his inherent knowledge, at least not in the way he questions his lack of memory. His instincts were always strong and accurate and he learned to follow them. This time there was the foresight that time existed for further training.
Slae started for the road and as he rounded the lake, he noticed something peeking out of the woods. It was fairly large and shimmered in the light despite the dust and moss covering it. Even from this distance, Slae could tell it was made of some metallic substance and glass. The man-made object stood in such stark contrast to the forest.
In wonder he headed for the structure, making his way through the woods. Slae began to recognize many structures and suddenly felt the ground change under his feet. It was no longer the spongy forest ground, but hard and unyielding. Sweeping away the leaves revealed cracked asphalt. The concrete was old and crumbly and trees had broken through. What was left of the asphalt was being encroached upon by forest moss.
Looking up Slae gasped. He was peering into the large ruins of a once modern city. The building he saw peeking above the trees was only a quarter of its original size. The rest of it had toppled over. Slae moved into the ruins which had long been swallowed by the woods.
He moved down the moss covered street and through the buildings. It was clear this was once a grand city, full of commerce and busy streets. The height of humanity reduced to rubble. Slae streaked his fingers along a cracked window when some flickering and noise gained his attention.
He cautiously turned the corner and moved between the few remaining buildings that still stood. Slae walked out from the alley and into an old recreational park; overgrown by several trees and dense foliage. Amidst it all he saw a large billboard that displayed images of someone Slae did not recognize.
The person upon the billboard had bright blue eyes, and was dressed to kill in a tuxedo. He had a clean-shaven head with evenly spaced bumps upon his forehead. His skin was pale, almost completely white and he seemed peculiar. Slae could not put his finger on why, but something seemed completely unnatural. As the image played a slightly distorted message broadcast:
Welcome your supreme over-lord and worship him with all your heart and mind; for he does not wish death for anyone, but that we may live In harmony with one another. To grow and prosper. To aid you in Finding your own happiness and Place in life.
The message was accompanied by varying pictures of the strange man and after a couple minutes of silence the message repeated. Slae did not know what to think. Here the entire city lay in complete ruins from some battle while this sign propagated peace and tolerance. It seemed to him like the message was honest and good.
Yet he wondered why the enemy would promote peace and yet destroy an entire city. Perhaps, Slae thought, I am fighting the wrong side here?
He looked up and gazed out over the surrounding ruins. It was sobering, causing Slae to realize that it was the act of someone who spoke of peace and truth, but only accepted their view of it.
Slae tired of the place and took the road heading out of the park. It ran by a lake where some old park signs remained standing. The crumbling city faded from view as he passed into the forest and off the road.
Slae reached another road that headed in the same direction he had previously been traveling. He looked down the road in both direction and concluded it was the same road he was prior to sightseeing. Turning to see a bright yellow and heavily rusted car approach, Slae attempted to hide, but it was too late. The people in the vehicle gawked at him with bloodshot eyes as they passed. Slae merely stood, gazing back at them.
A black rope suddenly spiraled about the vehicle and lifted the car off the road, being whipped sideways, swinging the car back toward Slae. The car broke about Slae's torso, bursting into a fiery inferno, that mercilessly killed everyone in the car in an instant. Slae was not physically moved from the onslaught, but the flow of anger and confusion produced gave his other half a chance to surface.
Slae looked up at a shadowarrior bounding down from a tree. He turned his attention to the wreckage of metal and blood broiled by an inferno of fire. He did not know the people in the car yet he felt his anger growing and his will slipping further control to his other half. However, Slae did not care; justice had to be dealt to the shadowarrior.
Tentacles from the body of the shadowarrior began picking up large chunks of the asphalt and launching them at Slae. One after another the asphalt came with increasing ferocity. But unknown to Slae, the pieces were going through him as he stepped toward the creature; a result brought on by the powers of the other half bleeding through. The shadowarrior soon stopped, realizing its attack had no impact. The tentacles flew at Slae and Slae quickly grabbed each one and yanked the shadow toward him.
As he brought a fist back to hit the shadowarrior, it reached out for some nearby shade and vanished into it. Just as quickly as it had disappeared, the shadowarrior reappeared sending a grey wave of shadowy-energy at Slae. It knocked Slae off his feet and onto the hard asphalt. The warrior turned the wave of energy toward Slae and brought it against him again and again, like a hammer. Every strike smashed Slae's body further into the ground.
Slae tried to stand but it smashed him into the ground again. He rolled out from another attack, and jumped to his feet. The force swung sideways at Slae and careened through trees and across the surface of the lake. He finally came to a stop about half way across the lake and broke through the surface; causing an explosion of water. It rained down and sent a wave washing onto dry land.
Slae, in the depths of the lake, felt his control slipping even more. In his pain and anger he could do little to stop it. Then power, satisfying power, surged through him as he sunk to the bottom.
There he stood up, and his anger erupted in a pulse of power through the water. The surface stirred slightly at first, then began to rise. The waters of the lake swelled until bursting outward sending massive waves that flooded the entire surrounding area, and raining down in torrents, causing temporary rivers to form and land to be carved out.
The resulting dispersal of water left Slae in only a puddle. Electricity erupted about his body, and the struggle within was raging on more furiously than ever before.
The shadowarrior exited out of the flood waters in a smoky silhouette that quickly reformed into a solid figure as leapt through the air. It smashed into Slae, grappling him and sending them splashing into the puddle. The fists of the creature pummeled Slae's face repeatedly.
With opened hands Slae launched the warrior high into the air. He noticed the waters were starting to rush back inward; washing away parts of the road and further damaging the nearby abandoned city. With the retreating water brought with it dozens of uprooted trees and plants and was thickened with mud.
Using his strength Slae leapt from the lake bed, high into the air, passing the shadowarrior and landing onto a broken skyscraper; still visible above the retreating water.
The shadowarrior fell back into the lake bed. Immediately it burst from the water alongside the building Slae was on; latching onto the side, crawling upward until popping its head over an edge of the skyscraper. Slae, having already prepared an attack, let the electricity pour from his hand. It ravaged the warrior, and sent it backwards into the water again. Slae smiled. He knew it would just return again and remembered the powers of the Light.
Before he could even attempt to conjure the power the shadowarrior hurled itself over the building and broke its feet across Slae's chest, sending him flying backwards. He hit a street, bounced then rolled through the wall of a building, causing it to topple.
Slae stood and dusted himself off, being completely uninjured. Tentacles broke through the rubble, wrapped about him and jerked him out of the building, into an adjacent building, and through some vault-walls that appeared to be an old bank. He came to rest in a large lobby filled with fine furniture and décor.
Once again, the tentacles started to pull him. He grabbed a pole attached to the floor, tearing it out of its concrete fastening. It would be a convenient weapon against his attacker. As he was ripped from the building he noticed the metal pole had a large chunk of concrete attached to the bottom. Slae smiled. As soon as he had a clear shot at the shadowarrior Slae chucked the pole at it. It pelted the shadowarrior straight in the head.
The shadowarrior crumpled over backwards and Slae was dropped from the grasp of his enemy. Slae started to notice that he was no longer seeing things in the same way; almost as if he was watching from a different perspective. That is when he realized his control was slipping completely out of his hold. Slae attempted to breathe deeply, clenching his teeth to gain more control, not realizing the shadowarrior was preparing another attack. The ground then shook suddenly and violently beneath his feet.
As Slae looked at the ground it began to roll and break apart and black light poured through the crevices. The blackness devoured the light from the sun and turned the sky as dark as night. The ground swelled, and before Slae could move, it erupted into a purple-fiery explosion that left nothing but ashes and cinders. Even the metal and concrete were reduced to smoldering rubble.
Slae gave a dark smile through the light that suffused his body; protecting him from the powerful attack. The shadowarrior growled and launched several tentacles at Slae that shattered like glass upon contacting the barrier of light. In sudden fear the shadowarrior stepped back and froze for a time.
The light collected into Slae’s hand and a gentle, quiet voice filled his head. He listened to the words as he extended his hand. The light broke from his hand, and struck the shadowarrior. As he dropped to the ground hissing, it grabbed its shoulder in pain.
"The Light destroys you, vile shadowarrior!" Slae called out with great satisfaction.
Chapter 11 Amnesia
The night had come and gone; the next day was upon them. Though bright, it did little to rid the streets of the filth. Slae was slightly shocked that everyone felt content doing the things they did, even in broad daylight.
At the squeak of door hinges Slae turned to see a still-weary Lyla coming out of her bedroom. It was obvious from the darkness around her eyes, the lines on her face and her groggy 'good morning' that she had not slept well. Lyla barely looked the youthful woman she really was, it was obvious recent events were weighing heavily on her.
He wished there was something he could do to lift her burdens and make her smile. But really the only way to end all the suffering, was to destroy the Shadow.
Slae turned to greet Lyla, "Good morning to you too."
Lyla lazily made her way to the couch and plopped down, sending up a plume of dust. Lyla tiredly tried to fan the floating particles away with her hands. She sat there pulling at the wrinkles in her pajama pants and avoiding eye contact with Slae. He could see that something was eating at her.
"I have to know something", she started.
Slae moved over to the couch and sat down gently so not to stir up any more dust. He sensed a hollow, painful hopelessness coming from her.
"Does it have to be you?" Lyla asked.
The question hit Slae harder than he thought it would. He had never thought to ask the question of himself. The Angel had said that it had to be him, that no one else could do it. Despite his inner struggles, the loss of memories and the power of the Shadow – Slae was somehow certain it had to be him.
"I believe it does, yes."
Lyla nodded somberly, "Why? Is there no one else that can do it, or at least help you?"
Slae shook his head, "There is no one else… I am the only one that can stand in its way and fight back."
"There are no others like you?"
Slae shook his head once again, "No, there is not. When I was passed out for those days I remembered something from my youth: from when the Shadow first came." Slae paused, not quite sure how to continue.
"You see, there is no one else like me, at least not here. Because most of them were all killed by the Shadow."
Lyla looked up, startled by the news. "You mean to tell me that there were once others like you?"
Slae nodded, "You are far too young to have known. But the planet seemed to have many defenders, yet it did not matter. The Shadow overcame them with ease."
Lyla fired away another question, "If they were all killed, what makes you any different?"
Slae was not sure why, but the question irritated him. Perhaps because he did not know why he was allowed to survive; why he was forced away from his planet and time. What was it that allowed him to stand toe to toe with a shadowarrior and win? The powers of the light helped, surely, but even before that, Slae was able to fight one without taking any real damage. What makes me different?
Chapter 18 The Warrior Blossoms
Slae had gone to the arena as instructed and was surprised to find it fully repaired. The technician, Garry, was cleaning the last bit of the new stone in the cavern. He told Slae that when news of the arena's demise had spread several experienced, older technicians came in to help.
Also many others came to help with the heavy lifting and general labor. Garry showed Slae how to operate the arena controls after making him promise not to destroy the place again. Slae used the first few hours of his personal training time to meditate. When he came out of it he found a few people in the stands, just hanging out and not paying any attention to Slae.
Slae went over to the control panel and set it up to release one training dummy at a time with a five second delay. He spent time focusing his strength as it left his body, cutting down dozens of wooden sparring partners. After making some progress, Slae decided to focus more on Conrad's instructions.
Slae combined the few techniques taught by Conrad with the instructions given by Alice; which caused the strength within his body to flow with his every movement. And like an ocean being pulled by the moon, his power swayed and ebbed as he moved; giving him increased control over how they released.
Even so, Slae did not want the hindrance of this technique; the time it took to move just to better the attack could mean his life. The enemy was not bound to dancing around before releasing an attack - at least not that Slae knew. There had to be another way. However, until he found it he would continue to follow through on his current training. Perhaps, he thought, I will find the answer through this.
He had noticed that as he trained onlookers gathered to watch. Suddenly he heard a familiar voice, "Hey! What you up to?"
Slae turned to see Boulder stepping onto the arena ground and he smiled, "Come to train with me?"
Boulder smirked and said, "Nope. Come take a break."
Slae raised a brow, "I have only been training for a short while now."
Boulder shook his head and asked, "Taken any breaks, eh?"
Slae shook his head, "No, but why does that matter?"
Boulder gave a small chuckle, "You know or not, but you been here thirty hour or so."
Slae stepped out of formation and rubbed the back of his neck, "Really?"
Boulder nodded and replied, "Yep. Caught wind you trainin that long 'go."
Slae shrugged, "Alright, what did you have in mind?"
Before Boulder could reply Slae felt a chill run down his spine. Turning, he saw his other training instructor, the young man. Green smoke poured from his hands. Boulder's brows furrowed as he stepped between Slae and the man.
Chapter 20 Within Evil's Presence
Thunder exited through the final wall and also landed on the moist floor of the jungle. As he did, the holes in the building repaired themselves. Slae leapt to his feet. Startled, he found himself standing toe to toe with Thunder. Slae tried to move and instead found himself clutching at his chest from anattack he did not even see. Another unseen attack sent Slae bouncing out of the jungle into a massive desert area. He jumped to his feet, and looked around. The jungle was a like an island among an otherwise barren ocean of sand stretching for miles. Thunder exited from the trees; majestically floating several feet above. Slae lost himself in wonder for a moment. How could something so evil carry so much majesty, Slae thought.
Thunder’s eyes burned into Slae, and his palms were turned upward in some ritualistic fashion. The midnight-blue robes shredded away from his frame and fell to the ground, hissing and whirling, vanishing into the air.
Slae stepped back and prepared himself, remembering his training. As Thunder suddenly vanished from sight, Slae raised a hand, creating a violent shaking of the air. Thunder became caught up in the defensive maneuver and was tossed to the ground. The fallen tyrant placed the fingertips of his hand into the ground, his eyes flickering. The sand suddenly melted into glass beneath Slae’s feet and cooled instantly. Before he could break his feet free of the glassy shackles it shattered and flew upward into Slae's face.
Though the attack broke his concentration, to Thunder's displeasure it caused no damage. Thunder vanished again and Slae was brought to his knees, doubled over from another unseen attack. From there he saw Thunder's next move out of the corner of his eye. While still clutching at his gut with one hand, Slae brought his other hand up and caught the tyrant’s shin in mid-kick. Standing to his feet, Slae grabbed the leg with both hands and brought him over his head. Just before Thunder made contact with the ground, he leveraged his other foot off of Slae, who fell backwards. Thunder spun in the air and as his toes made contact with the hot sand, he shot for Slae.
Slae found himself being able to see Thunder's rapid movements more clearly with each attack. This time he was able to side-step it while bringing his knee up into Thunder's face. At the same time he brought an elbow into Thunder’s spine, causing him to fold backwards and Slae felt the jaw of his opponent crumple against his knee. Slae moved backwards in a graceful bound, as Thunder fell into the sand.
Slae smirked as Thunder stood, still bent backwards. His face badly distorted by his broken jaw that was so twisted it caused the skin to fold over his eyes. Slae pulled back in disgust, as the faint sound of metal crinkling and popping followed the complete restoration of Thunder's face and body.
"What are you. . .?" Slae gasped.
Smiling Thunder replied, "That is of no concern to you. Just know that you have made a poor choice and now the entire planet will suffer because of it. You have only unearthed the tip of the mountain to which shall be the means to your end."
Thunder flexed his muscles, which rippled grotesquely as a chilled wind issued out from Thunder. His skin glistened with blue light and the air rumbled so loudly that Slae was forced to place his hands over his ears. Suddenly a flash of unnatural green light blasted from Thunder, traveling out for miles, leaving the air stale and bitter cold as the sunny sky dimmed and was tainted by the same greenish tint.
Thunder, other than his grossly ripped muscles, looked exactly as he did before, yet something in how he moved changed. He had far more grace and fluidity to his motion and greater command over even the tiniest gesture. Slae once again called upon his training and brought a single hand out and upwards toward Thunder. An invisible force traveled fast and powerfully between Slae and his opponent and struck Thunder so hard that the very air around him cracked like broken glass. Yet Thunder did not even seem to notice it.
Slae stepped back, nearly giving into cowardice. Then he charged at Thunder with blinding speed, sending a fist into Thunder's face. As his hand met Thunder’s face, a loud cracking noise broke from Slae's hand. Thunder quickly gripped the broken hand hard and Slae whence in pain. A look of horror crossed Slae's face as the maniacal tyrant squeezed his hand, breaking it further. Slae refused to yell out, but he could not stop himself from grunting in pain.
Thunder placed a foot against Slae's side, just beneath his shoulder, while tightening his grip on his hand. As Thunder began to stretch out his leg, Slae could feel his shoulder trying to come apart. He yelled out as he thought that he was going to lose his arm, and his life.
But try as Thunder did, Slae proved more resilient. When Slae realized that Thunder could not accomplish the task of dismembering him, he conjured up some strength. Roaring mightily, he placed his good hand against Thunder's abdomen. The resulting attack was like a spike had gone through Thunder, causing him to drop Slae and step backwards in more shock than actual pain.
Slae stood, gripping his shoulder. Thunder moved behind him in a flash and grabbed him by the back of his head. Slae attempted to break free, but was forced forward by Thunder who caused a large boulder to rip from the sand. It was jagged, blackened and Slae winced at the possibility of Thunder's plan for him. Thunder cranked back his arm with Slae's head in tow and sent it smashing into the solid surface. His face hit so hard into the rough surface that the rock cracked down the center and spider-webbed out. Then to Slae's shock it merely sealed back up, and he was sent into it again, head first.
This time, forgetting that his other arm was badly damaged, he threw both arms out in front and felt the crushing blow worse than before. The pain was beginning to subdue him more than Thunder had with his grapples, and Slae was sure that both of his arms were now broken, having felt something splinter in his good arm.
Thunder cranked back his arm again and sidestepped the large boulder. He gently placed Slae’s face against the surface and dragged it across, causing chucks of small rock to fall free from the boulder. As Slae's skin broke open, small white flames erupted from between the rock and Slae; causing Thunder to drop Slae and step back in what appeared to be genuine surprise.
Slae was too limp to move and Thunder kicked him hard enough to turn him over. Slae's face was scarred badly, but no blood, burn or even open wound was visible.
Thunder looked at the boulder and where the flames had erupted between it and Slae; it was now a smooth, glossy stone. Thunder, bewildered, nudged Slae with his foot, causing Slae to wake up in a small coughing fit. As he coughed sparks of flame flashed out of his mouth in small spouts.
"It does not matter what you are, you shall perish at my hands all the same," Thunder said, bringing calm to his own curiosity. He gripped Slae by his broken hand and raised him up, face to face, "Though I must admit, you're a bit more than I expected - No matter though, your end has come."
Slae could only watch as Thunder took him high into the air until the jungle looked like a small dot below. Once he stopped, Thunder put a hand over Slae's face and chanted, 'Escrow mein tow sebide, escros mein red deveed'. Atoms gathered into Thunder's hand until they formed a greenish smooth orb in his palm, about the size of a small pebble.
"This simple piece of magic, is powerful enough to destroy planets - Yes, it was intended to be plural - Is all just for you." Thunder said.
Written By - J. L. Tracey
Edited By - Whitney Duque
Edited By - Joyce Tugan
Edited By - Brittany Tracey
Contributors - Brittany T., Dennis P., Julie S., Angie M.
About the Author
J. L. Tracey is a published author of the book Last Hero, with 6 collective years of creative writing (2yrs of serious writing!). While most of his writing is private, J. L. Tracey does have some small published works on the hubpages and works to bring more. He is a family man and loves being out doors disc golfing or playing just about any game. When not spending time with his family or pursuing hobbies, Tracey enjoys day dreaming too much; developing ideas and characters for fictional works.