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~*Black Waters*~

Nirarekdan

Well-Known Member
This is rated PG-13, mostly because of a few sligthly graphic scenes. It will vary throughout.

Prologue​

Two young boys looked on as a group of archaeologists worked quietly in the large Arizona canyon.

“Professor, when do we get a turn?” one asked. The eldest archaeologist turned with a chuckle. “Why don’t you two go into the cave and help your brother? I’m sure he could use some help digging around in there.”

The two boys cheered and jumped towards a large cave in the canyon wall, strange markings engraved around it. The professor chuckled again and went back to examining small artifacts, including many small, round opals. They’d been the first clue to this interesting area, embedded in the intricate design around the cave’s mouth. Inside the cave, the two boys ran down a long tunnel that had similar markings and jewels. They came to the end, where a young man, obviously their brother, was trying to decipher odd writing.

“Hey, big brother, watcha doin?” the younger of the two smaller boys said. His brother glanced at him for a moment.

“I’m trying to figure out what these symbols mean,” he said, just finishing with the inscription in his notebook. He started muttering to himself quietly, looking up at the wall. Just like around the cave entrance, there were millions of small opals embedded around the edge in intricate designs. In the center of the wall, moonstones and pearls, perfectly round, spiraled outwards towards the opals from a small inscription.

The two young boys stared in awe at the beautiful markings, and one touched the gems as if they were glass. The older boy pushed the boy’s hand away quickly. “Please don’t touch them,” he said, looking at his brothers sternly. “They’re so old they might crumble.”

As he said this, a little bit of dust showered down on them from around the wall. A door-like shape could now be seen plainly, all the gems swirling around on it before fading into dust that blew past them. “Whoa…” the other young boy said, an awed grin crossing his face.

“Professor!” the boy’s oldest brother yelled. The old man from outside rushed up, and took in the scene in a moment. “Thomas touched a stone, and this door appeared.”

“I didn’t mean to mess up anything,” the young boy said, worried that he was in trouble.

“It’s alright, Thomas,” the Professor said. “You did good. Now, let’s see if this will open…”

At that the old man and the eldest boy pushed on the doorway, and it swung open neatly. A gush of freezing, moist air rushed out of the new cave, a stench of rot and death with it. Beyond the doorway was pure darkness, the door itself having vanished. The four people stared in at it, afraid to break the heavy silence in the tunnel. None of them consciously heard the voices inside the blackness, beckoning them inside, and all mistook the adrenaline rushing through them as excitement instead of instinctive fear.

“I’ll go first,” the Professor said, stepping forward into the blackness. As soon as he stepped through the doorway, his footsteps were muffled to silence and all light was blocked from him. The eldest boy, after a moment of utter silence, stepped forward.

“Professor?” he said. There was no answer, and he stepped forward again. This time, however, he was not silenced. As he felt the Arctic cold in the cave engulf him, he saw before him a bone-chilling sight, and let out a blood-curdling scream that was cut short as razor-sharp claws ripped through his neck. The two young boys outside screamed in turn and ran as the darkness surged out of the cave and grabbed one, his voice gurgling into silence as the other fled for his life.
 

Saffire Persian

Now you see me...
Hmmm.. I wonder what that razor-clawed thing was. 0_o... Not a bad prologue, you could use a bit more description, and a tad more dynamic dialogue to flesh the characters out. But, it's a Prologue..which often doesn't constitute fleshing characters out..

Grammar was good, couldn't spot any problems except for the 'slightly' in the first sentence of this threat.

All and all, good job.
 

Nirarekdan

Well-Known Member
Yeah, it does need more description. Well, the next chappie should be a little better, and definetely longer. You'll find out about the claws later...

Chapter One- Impossibilities​

A cool, crisp breeze whispered through the treetops of the pine forest, moon and stars giving everything a ghostly glow. Newly fallen aspen leaves littered the forest floor, frost just showing on their golden edges. Suddenly, all was still and quiet, and not even the wind dared to move for a moment, and then it came back as a gale, the remaining leaves on the scattered aspens whipping away with their friends on the ground. Silent, buzzing whispers were growing louder, echoing off the nearby cliffs.

Once again, all was quiet, the whispers only faintly heard. A shadow began shifting, writhing until it took a deformed canine shape. Yellow eyes glared at the creature’s surroundings, glowing with a harsh black light. It moved towards a strange thicket of brush nearby, smelling its prey. It came to the thickly woven wall of brush and trees, and carefully avoiding the moonlight it crept through a small crack at the base. Now inside a small clearing, the moonlight and stars shining gently on a small shelter of the same material as the walls, the shadow monster growled in satisfaction.

It found a small path of shadow that led to the shelter, and took it, sneaking inside. The sounds of breathing could now be heard, and the monster crept towards a sleeping figure at one end of the warm brush shelter. The young woman slept peacefully, innocently unaware of the doom creeping towards her. A black cat slept under one of her arms, curled against her chest and neck protectively. The shadow monster watched for a moment, pale, bloodstained teeth gleaming in the darkness, before creeping close enough to smell the woman’s dreams. She shifted suddenly, her hidden, soft throat suddenly becoming exposed.

The shadow monster could not help growling its excitement, and the cat at the woman’s side suddenly woke, hissing at the monster and standing over the woman. The shadow beast growled in anger at its own stupidity, leaping at the woman who immediately woke and reached for a spear nearby. As she pointed it at the monster, she gasped in terror as the beast miraculously shifted mid leap and avoided the spear. It landed right in front of her, and the cat leapt at the wolf-like monster’s throat. A swipe from the monster’s sharply clawed paw threw the cat against the wall of the shelter, and the woman stood, anger blazing in her eyes.

“No one hurts Merlin!” the woman yelled angrily, thrusting her spear at the surprised shadow monster, which accidentally jumped back into the flap of deerskin that served as a door, it’s hideous hind legs and spiked tail burning in the moonlight. The monster howled with pain, and the woman jabbed her spear into its throat, black, burning blood spraying her. The shadow monster backed further into the moonlight, howling and screeching as it writhed in the light of the full moon until it finally was still and blew away as a fine black dust.

The woman stared after the strange sight only a moment longer before wiping the creature’s acidic blood off her face with a thin rag hanging off a peg one the shelter’s wall. She knelt by the injured cat and stroked him for a moment before wrapping him in an old towel and turning to a small round fireplace in one corner of the shelter. She stirred up the embers and added more wood, quickly starting another bright blaze in the small clay, kiln-like structure.
The black cat meowed from inside his towel, and the woman whispered to him, gently placing him closer to the fire. She reached for a small metal cup nearby and went outside to a spring surrounded by smooth pebbles. She took a cup of the clear, icy water and put it inside near the fire, warming it enough to use for cleaning her friend’s injury. Taking the towel from around the black cat, the woman carefully examined the wound. Already the leg cut had pus leaking from it, as well as blood, and the woman took yet another rag from the wall and doused it in the burning hot water. She carefully dabbed the cat’s leg with the cloth, whispering to him as he growled softly in pain.
“It’s okay, baby,” she said gently, scratching the cat’s forehead after wrapping the hot cloth around his leg. “You’ll be better now. Just wait here while I get some bark, okay?”

The woman stroked the cat’s side and went outside to a single birch tree that served as a shield from harsh weather and also as a miracle plant. The woman tore a few strips of loose bark from the tree and took them back inside to soak in the water for a moment before using them as a natural cast for her cat. The warm cloth on the cat’s leg was getting cold just as the bark was thoroughly soaked. The woman gently removed the rag, sewed the wide gash together with sinew and a pine needle, applied a nearby salve that she’d always used for such purposes, and then wrapped the birch bark comfortably around the cat’s leg.

In a few minutes it was a hard cast that would keep the cat from hurting himself more, yet come right off when he was healed. “It’s okay, Merlin,” the woman whispered to the cat lying in her lap. “You’ll be okay. Just don’t hurt yourself again, okay?”

Merlin looked up at the woman with his big yellow eyes and purred gently, a paw gently gripping her hand with five sharp claws. The woman chuckled softly and bent to head to the cat’s, making soft popping noises with her tongue. Before the fire died down, she set him gently on the thick blanket that covered the hard wood of her makeshift bed, stroking his head before stepping outside silently. The shadow monster’s blood had left burns on her face, and she gently washed the rest of the liquid off her clothes and the rag.
From behind, the woman heard a footstep and reached for her spear, which she’d left near the spring before. She turned, expecting to see another of the shadow monsters, but nearly fell over when she saw a tall, caped figure staring at her from near the small entrance to her fort.

“How did you get in here?” she stuttered, her fear of other people overcoming her. “What do you want?”

“Where is the Shadow?” the figure said, his voice rich and smooth. The woman stood, still holding her spear tightly. She saw the beast in her mind again and pointed to the spot of blood nearby on the grass.

“If that monster that attacked me is one of those Shadows, I killed it,” the woman said, wiping the last of the creature’s blood from her face. The caped figure stepped towards the blood spot, then towards the woman.

“You killed it?”

The woman nodded, walking back to her shelter and stepping through the doorway. She came back out, a flicker of firelight shining onto the monster’s blood.

“I’d appreciate it if you’d leave now,” she said, her spear still in hand and Merlin standing next to her, his wounded leg carefully raised. The figure stepped back, and the sound of metal sliding across metal cautioned her to the silver blade the man drew. The woman glanced at her spear; not much of a match against a sharp sword. But to her surprise, the man pointed his sword at Merlin instead.

“You lie!” the man yelled. “The Shadow is there!”

The woman burst out laughing, bending over to pet her cat gently. “This is a cat,” she said as if talking to a toddler. “My Merlin’s not dangerous, mister, so you can relax.”

The black cat glared up at the figure, whose face was revealed by the bright moonlight. Scars showed on his rough face, short brown hair covering menacing black eyes. Merlin growled, his ears going flat against his head. The woman crouched next to him and stroked his head, making the quiet popping noises with her tongue again. The cat walked back into the shelter, glaring around at the caped man. Once again, the woman was serious at the sight of that sword. Something about it chilled her, making her want the man to leave even more. “I’d appreciate it if you’d put that away,” she said harshly to the man.

The woman felt strange, a type of emotion in her that she’d never felt before, not even for the people she feared. She felt tense in this man’s presence, almost listening to the instinct inside her that said to kill him. She felt it burn lower as her sheathed his weapon, but it was stronger as her stepped towards her. The woman almost felt like smiling to herself; even though she was afraid of this strange figure, she felt like she could kill him in an instant.

“Thank you,” the woman said, stepping back into her shelter. She leaned her spear against the wall and petted Merlin, who once again lay on her bed. The fire was burning quite nicely, and cast a flicker as the man outside opened the flap and entered as well. He looked around the small shelter for a moment before setting his eyes on the black cat again. “What now?” the woman asked, not moving. When a second man entered, however, she stood and grabbed her spear again.

“It’s okay, we’re not going to hurt you,” the second man said, his own voice younger than the other man’s. He looked around the small shelter just as the other had, but with a more curious than critical look. “This place is very interesting. How do you live out here though? No people are around for miles.”

“I like it that way,” the woman said. “People are unpredictable and dangerous. I’ve got my other friends.”

“That animal?” the older man said harshly, pointing at Merlin.

“As well as birds, deer, elk, even a few coyotes and wolves,” the woman said, picturing each of the animals in her head, all of which respected her as one of them. “If you think I’m crazy, I don’t care. Leave if it bugs you that much.”

The woman was almost shocked at the men’s reactions after her uncharacteristic outburst. The older man exited the shelter, but the younger didn’t. “People aren’t all bad, you know,” he said, sitting down. “Lee’s just a really harsh guy.”

“I can tell,” the woman said, sitting back down on her own bed after sticking another log in the fire. “And who are you supposed to be?”

“Name’s Tom,” the young man said, the woman’s attitude getting to him a little. “You don’t have to act so guarded against us. We’re here to help.”

“You’re here to kill that monster that attacked us, I assume,” the woman said, relaxing a little. Tom nodded, smiling a little. “Well, you didn’t have to come. He was dead and gone ten minutes before you guys got here.”

Tom gaped at her, then outside, stuttering. “B-but, how could you beat a Shadow?” he finally managed to say. The woman tensed again.

“Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I can’t fight my own fights,” she said quietly, looking into the fire, anger burning in her eyes. She had enough of sexism from her father at home…

“But how could you have killed one?” Tom continued, not noticing. “You can’t be someone from the Valley, so how could you have the weapons?”

“I’ve got a spear!” the woman yelled, standing quickly, her anger suddenly taking over. A stranger had come into the only place in the world where she’d ever been able to get away from the world’s troubles, her only true home, without permission, assuming the right to defend her from things she could handle herself. “I can make things with my own two hands, okay? Just because I don’t have a social life, as people call it, doesn’t mean I’m not very smart. I’m smarter than most of the people in town when it comes to the wilderness, and we live in the forest, okay? So if you don’t think a woman can take care of herself, then get out!”

At that the woman let out a frustrated growl and stalked outside, passing the caped ‘Lee’ and crawling out of her fort. She walked to a large cliff face and looked up at the stars, the moon still high in the black sky. The Milky Way was spread out above her, and for a moment she thought of nothing but what it would be like to fly among those stars. The logical side of her mind scowled at the thought, bringing up the fact that space was impossible to fly in as a bird.

A small meow and a body pressing up against the woman’s leg notified her of Merlin’s presence and she sat down and let him crawl into her lap. “I’m sorry I keep leaving you alone, baby,” she whispered quietly, her voice gentle. “You remember what is was like living at the house, though. Bubbles picked on you constantly, Dad always hated that you loved me and not him… But you’re smart. You knew that he was dangerous, didn’t you?”

The woman heard footsteps behind her and huddled around her cat closer. “You know, kitten,” she whispered even quieter. “If it weren’t for you I’d still be back at that horrible place. If it weren’t for that day… You and God were the only ones who came through for me.”

At that the woman closed her eyes and bent her head more, curling up into a shell to protect Merlin from the cold air. After a few minutes, the woman started to get cold and shifted to let the cat know she was getting up. “Come on, Merlin-kitty,” she said gently. “I’m getting cold, and we should be kicking them out, not the other way around.”

The woman picked up Merlin gently and he lay relaxed in her arms, a contented look on his face, as she walked with long, even strides past Lee towards the wall of her fort. She nudged Merlin in before her and crawled in, standing up as soon as she was inside. Merlin walked over to the spring and got a sip of icy water, and then over to the shelter and behind the deerskin. The woman watched Tom, who stood in the far corner of the clearing.

“I didn’t mean what I said the way you think I did,” he said. The woman watched him quietly, studying his shadowed face. “You’ve never heard of the Valley, have you?”

The woman shook her head, stepping inside her shelter. Tom leaned against the wall of the fort, sighing slightly. “Well, come on in,” the woman said, sticking her head back out. “It’s pretty chilly out.”

Tom shivered slightly, just noticing that his breath was misting and freezing, then walked over and stepped into the much warmer shelter. Merlin hissed at his entry, and the woman popped at him. The cat almost instantly quieted, only growling softly at the intruder. Tom and the woman studied each other for a moment. The woman wore a leather suit, light tan, obviously light and soft. The pants part was loose and roomy, and the shirt was tighter yet still comfortable. In the cool firelight, the woman’s eyes were as dark as the sky outside, and her long brown hair was tied up with a leather thong.

The woman saw Tom differently. Though she noted his short, dark, slightly ruffled hair, vividly green eyes, and dark skin tone, she also saw his strengths and weaknesses. He stood stiffly compared to her own relaxed posture, his arms crossed and feet straight. His face held tension too, though not at the current situation entirely. She saw curiosity and gentleness in his eyes, so she knew that he could be trusted, even if Merlin didn’t agree. She suddenly paid more attention to the outer details, noting his thin, silk clothes and cotton cape. He was obviously from someplace hot…

The woman grabbed a few pieces of the meat strung from the ceiling and offered one to Tom. “Hungry?” she asked, eating one herself. Tom took one with a smile and he seemed less tense.

“I didn’t catch your name, by the way,” he said, sitting facing her next to the warm fireplace.

The woman thought for a moment, almost as if trying to remember her name. “I guess I don’t really have one,” she said. “All the animals just know me by my voice, and I’ve lived out here for so long…”

“You’ll think of one,” Tom said, grinning a little.

“Merlin’s my cat, by the way,” the woman added after nodding. She said the name cat-like, and the cat looked up at her at the sound, his growling having stopped. She sat down and chewed on her piece of tough meat. “I guess you can call me Amy. That used to be my name. Anyway, tell me more about this ‘Valley’ you were talking about.”

“Well, I’m not completely sure how far it is from here, but it’s on the South Coast,” Tom said. “There are huge, practically impossible-to-climb cliffs an all the sides, so no one can get in. On the ocean side, the cliffs extend beyond the beach and go right into these underwater reefs about a quarter-mile out. Only flyers and swimmers, and good ones at that, can ever get in.”

“It sounds beautiful,” Amy said, picturing the whole scene in her head. Tom nodded and continued.

“It’s the ultimate fort,” he said. “In one of the cliffs, right next to the ocean, the winds have carved out a huge cave… That’s where we live, basically. It serves as the hospital, sanctuary, lunchroom, you get the idea. There’s a small path that leads up to it, and most of it is impossible to see. All through the valley there’s a big, beautiful forest, not at all like this one, either. The trees there lose their leaves every fall.”

“What kinds of animals are there?” Amy asked, Merlin crawling into her lap and watching Tom curiously.

“Well, there are plenty of animals like around here,” Tom said, thinking it over. “There are seagulls, eagles, and millions of little swallows, too. In the bay, there are plenty of fish, a few sharks, dolphins-”

“Dolphins?” the woman interrupted suddenly, a serious, yet excited tone in her voice. Tom nodded, and she looked down at Merlin. “Oh, kitten, there are dolphins…”

“Most people don’t even know what they look like anymore,” Tom marveled. Amy looked up at him strangely.

“How can that be?” she asked. “Everyone that I know can draw at least a decent picture of one. I’ve never met a person who doesn’t know what a dolphin looks like.”

“Hm,” Tom shrugged. “Well, maybe that’s just around here. Anyway, we’ve got tons of other creatures around there, too. Horses, wolves, wildcats, dragons-”

“Dragons?” Amy said, raising an eyebrow. “Okay, now I know that you’re crazy. As much as I’d like to believe you, there’s no way I will until I see a real dragon for myself. Maybe they were real once, but no one’s seen them for over three hundred years.”

Now Tom was the one watching the brunette woman oddly. She’d gone back to watching the fire, stroking Merlin’s black velvet head gently. “Amy?” Merlin’s voice whispered in the woman’s head. She looked down at him in acknowledgement. “What if he’s telling the truth?”

“I don’t know, Merlin,” she said back, speaking in a language that only she and animals understood. “If he is, then why is it that someone hasn’t discovered it by now? Helicopters could get in easy.”

“Listen to him a little more,” Merlin said gently. “You’ve been away from that house for five years now. It wouldn’t hurt to know what’s going on in the world.”

Amy nodded, looking back up at Tom. “I’ve been out here for a long time. I’m sorry I called you crazy, I just don’t know what to think. What are Shadows? And why were you so surprised that I killed one?”

“It’s nothing against women, really,” Tom said. “It’s just that it’s extremely rare for a person to be born with the ability to kill them without training. I wasn’t, myself. I was actually chosen to train at the school there. What’s very odd is that only certain types of weapons can kill a Shadow.”

Tom drew his sword and let Amy look at it. She didn’t know too much about swords. She made her own weapons merely from experience and intuition. But this sword did seem unusual. Though it looked like a normal katana at first, the blade had the strangest sheen. “It’s beautiful,” Amy said quietly, touching the cold, smooth metal gently. Unlike Lee’s sword, it shone with a light silver color instead of dark. A small milky stone was imbedded in the hilt. “Moonstone?”

Tom nodded, re-sheathing his sword. “Light itself will hurt Shadows, but moonlight will kill them,” he explained. “There’s the short story, and the long story. Which do you want?”

“I’m not going anywhere, so I’ll have the long story,” Amy said. Tom grinned.

“Well, about a thousand years ago, ancient archaeologists, people who study their past, accidentally dug up an ancient tomb. It was sealed with opals, moonstones, pearls, and an inscription. Today, that inscription is back at the Valley, recovered by a few explorers. Anyway, it’s in a language that died out way before their time, so they didn’t know what was in the tomb. Somehow they managed to open the tomb, and they released the Shadows.

“The monsters killed almost everyone, but the few who survived discovered the Shadow’s secret; only moonlight completely kills a Shadow. Nobody knows why, either. But they knew that it had something to do with the stones on the tomb, and embedded the stones in their weapons. It isn’t just that, though. There’s something that you can do to the metal, especially at night, which makes it absorb moonlight so that you can wield it. The dragons melt unicorn hair and one of the three stones together, let it cool evenly, then melts it again, but into the sword.”

“Tom!” Lee’s harsh voice broke in suddenly, and he pushed the deerskin door aside as he stomped in. “How could you tell that…that…girl about our weapons?! It’s against all the teachings!”

“She’d find out sooner or later,” Tom said calmly, standing and glancing down at Merlin as he hissed and spat at Lee viciously. Amy watched him cautiously.
“What do you mean, I’d find out sooner or later?” she asked warily. Lee smiled, a dangerous flash passing his eyes.

“All the victims of Shadows have to be taken to the Valley,” he said. Amy stepped back, blinking.

“The Shadows attack people for a reason,” Tom said quietly. Lee left angrily, and Amy heard a whistle and the rush of huge wings. “The Shadows are afraid of the Valley because it’s where people last imprisoned them. People who aren’t taken there for protection are eventually killed.”

“But you saw that I can handle them,” Amy protested, stepping back again but pointing outside to the Shadow’s bloodstain.

“That was only one,” Tom said. “You were lucky, because Wolf Shadows usually attack in packs. When they do, almost no one can survive by himself, or in your case herself. Cat Shadows attack by themselves, and are fast as lightning. Reapers are the most dangerous. Even people trained to fight them usually get killed when up against one… I was lucky, too.”

Amy stared at Tom. “I’m not leaving my only home,” she said, anger suddenly taking over again. Merlin shrank away from her, watching fearfully. “No matter how beautiful that Valley of yours sounds, I’m never leaving my home. That place was already there for you. But I had to build this place all by myself, with my own two hands. You have people to teach you how to fight and survive. I had to learn through experience. Do you have any idea to live alone for five years? To know that you were going to die because of the worst mistake you could ever make? And then by God’s miracle, you survive and keep living? You can’t take me away from this place, Tom, and you won’t without a fight.”

At that Amy grabbed her spear again, anger blazing in her eyes. Tom put his hand to his sword, and Amy crouched. Suddenly she was the cat standing beside her, calm now that she realized what she was doing. The two moved as one, jumping out of the hut and into the cold moonlight. That would be their advantage against Tom. He might fight the Shadows, but she could become a regular shadow easily. Her leather outfit could blend into the area perfectly, and she could be quieter than the shadows that hid her. Tom drew his sword and followed after her, trying to locate her in the shadows of her fort.
“You might fear darkness, but I only fear what it hides…” Amy said quietly, pressing her spear point against Tom’s neck and holding it tightly. She watched calmly as he shifted to try and swing at her weapon, and Merlin jumped at his leg and bit him, hissing. Though the black cat was injured, he moved with the same fluid grace as his human twin. Tom sheathed his sword unexpectedly, turning slowly to look at Amy.

“How do you know that verse?” he said quietly.

“I only know what I see and feel,” Amy said. She realized suddenly what she was doing, and hesitantly lowered her spear. She would not murder anyone, not if they weren’t trying to hurt her.

Do not feareth the darkness, only the Shadows it holds,” Tom said quietly, the verse ringing in his head. “Just as thou doth not feareth death, only what lies beyond it.”

Amy stood straight again, holding her spear. Merlin watched her, trying to understand what the stranger was saying that made her stop. “For darkness and death art only portals to other worlds and opportunities…” Those were the exact words written in a journal she’d found before she’d left home. Everyone who’d signed it in the back was dead for sure, and it had been pure chance that she’d found it. It had been in a cave that no one had entered for forty years, being ‘impossible’ to get to after a vicious storm had wiped out the path to get to it. She’d been the first person brave enough, and stupid enough, to try and climb it… “How do you know about that?”

“That’s part of the saying for the school at the Valley…” Tom said, looking at Amy curiously. “No one except students know about that saying…”

Amy looked down, watching Merlin. “How can that be?” she whispered quietly. The cat nudged her leg, the moonlight shining in his yellow eyes, and she looked back up at Tom. “I’ll go with you.”

Tom nodded, but she raised a hand. “On one condition. I’ll only go if you promise me that I’ll be able to come home.”

Tom looked up, then back at Amy and nodded. “Someday.”

He looked up again and Amy followed his gaze, and then nearly fell over in amazement at the sight of a beautiful black griffon hovering above. Lee looked over his back, glaring down at them, but Amy ignored him. The griffon screeched loudly, and a lighter hippogriff joined it. The gray hippogriff lighted down gently in Amy’s fort clearing, nudging Tom’s shoulder while watching Amy curiously. “Oh my goodness…” she said quietly as Merlin jumped to her shoulders to watch the eagle-like creature carefully.
 

Saffire Persian

Now you see me...
Merlin = one of the best feline characters ever.

I love how you're going about this - I was wondering what type of story you were doing. (I didn't notice you posted). Is Merlin a *normal* Cat , or is there something more to him? I'm curious.

Amy , Tom, and the rest, are also proving to be interesting characters, and the concept of the Shadows are intriguing. I look forward to see where you go with this with your next chapter, whenever it may be.
 

Nirarekdan

Well-Known Member
First of all, I'm glad that you like Merlin. His personality's modeled after his real life counterpart at my house. ^.^ I'm not completely sure when I'll have the next chapter up, but hopefully it will be within the next week or two.

EDIT: Okay, chapter's done!

Chapter Two- The Moon Fighter’s Valley


Amy sat quietly on the hippogriff, which Tom had called Crescent, holding the creature’s thick gray neck feathers gently. She looked down at the ground flying beneath her, and tensed. Merlin held onto her tightly, his claws digging through her leather pants. They were tougher than the ones she’d used before, used for day use instead of pajamas. A small pack was slung around her waist, and in it was all she had brought with her from her tiny shelter. All the leather in her shelter was in that small pack, and the leather doorway had been replaced with a large slat of wood. The meat hanging from her ceiling was tightly wrapped in her bag, and the walls to the fort were plastered extra thickly with mud on the inside. The doorway was sealed, and no animals could get in unless they could fly.

Amy sighed, looking back at where the invisible fort was hidden, knowing that despite Tom’s promise she wasn’t likely to get back. Crescent’s wings pumped roughly and the creature rose higher into the air, closer to the stars. Amy looked at the horizon, the moon just setting. The landscape was different than what she thought it would look like. As the pine forest she’d come to know was left behind, they began flying over an enormous ocean next to low mountains to their left.

“I thought we were going south?” Amy asked Tom, who sat behind her quietly.

“We are,” he answered.

“But the ocean’s only this close to the mountains on the west side,” she said quietly, pondering over this for a while. Crescent screeched at Lee’s black griffon as the creature sped ahead, and Amy grinned. She leaned closer to the hippogriff’s neck and held on tighter, and felt Tom lean forward as well. Crescent took only a moment to catch up to the griffon, and Amy laughed out loud at the speed. Merlin crawled up into her shirt and hid from the fierce winds, growling softly, and she laughed again.

“Don’t be such a baby,” she said to the cat. Crescent screeched again, suddenly going into a dive towards the mountains. Amy took in the wide plain in the inside of the rim, almost volcanic in shape. Nearby the mountains dwindled into small hills, which in turn changed into more plains, a desert, and a thin line of a beach. A dark line was cut at the edge of another mountain range and the large desert in the mountain’s central valley.

Tom grinned as he saw the horizon lightening, a faint, pale pink shining through the ocean. In his experience, the Valley always had a better impression on people at dawn, when the shadows were just retreating. Just as they reached the dark line, waves crashing against the rocks on either side, the sun broke over the horizon and Amy let out a sigh of awe. The sunlight turned the pale orange cliffs to a golden color, the tiny ‘village’ in one side a small jewel. Glass windows shone with rainbows of colors, each becoming more distinct as they drew closer and closer to the beach.

Seagulls laughed loudly as they took off from nests in the cliff sides, some diving into the water for fish while others watched Lee, Tom and Amy. A loud cry was suddenly heard, a deep bass bellow that ricocheted off the walls of the Valley. Amy felt her bones shaking and throbbing with the beautiful song, and looked up to see the most beautiful sight one can see- a beautiful, gold-colored dragon, descending from above them. His mouth was open in what could only be described as a grin, white teeth gleaming in the dawn light.

“Tom!” the creature yelled, laughing loudly. “I see that you’ve brought new meat today! I bet you gave those Shadows a good beating, eh?”

Tom laughed back as Amy sat in total shock astride Crescent’s back, even when they landed on the soft, pale sand of the beach. Tom jumped off the gray hippogriff’s back and ran towards the dragon, which ruffled the young man’s hair with a front leg. “Tell me, what kind were they?” the dragon asked curiously.

“It was just a Wolf,” Tom said, pushing the dragon’s clawed leg away. The top of his head was even with the dragon’s shoulder. “And I didn’t get him, either.”

“Don’t tell me that old grumpy wings over there killed him,” the dragon said, a slight tone of disappointment in his voice as he glanced at Lee. Tom shook his head and pointed at Amy, who suddenly snapped out of shock and slid off Crescent’s back. Lee stalked off towards the village in the cliff, and his black griffon took off towards the mountains. Amy watched nervously as the dragon whispered something to Tom, and the young man nodded, turning to grin at her.

“Come on over,” he said, waving his hand. Amy still hesitated and the golden dragon snorted.

“I’m not gonna eat you,” he said indignantly. “Haven’t you ever seen a dragon before?”

“No, I haven’t,” Amy said, surprising herself with the loudness of her voice. She walked forward, holding a hissing Merlin tightly. She craned her neck up to look at the golden dragon’s lizard-like face, plate-like scales protecting it like a mask. The dragon bent his head so he could be on eyes level with her.

“Never?”

Amy shook her head, glancing down at Merlin. “I haven’t ever seen hippogriffs or griffons, either. And I suppose there are unicorns, Pegasi, and phoenixes around here too, right?”

The dragon nodded. “You bet. My name’s Gold Blaze, by the way. Amy, that’s your name, right? Well Amy, Tom here’s been saying that you killed a Shadow.”

“I did…” Amy said hesitantly, stroking Merlin tightly. “Tom’s already explained that that’s close to impossible. But it’s true…”

“Alright, I’ll believe you,” Gold Blaze said, nodding his head. Merlin suddenly snarled and struck at the dragon’s head, jumping out of Amy’s arms and to the ground. He growled, back hunched, at both Tom and Gold Blaze. Both were startled, and even the dragon jumped a little. Then he snarled back and tongues of flame flickered out his nose.

Amy hurriedly grabbed Merlin, retreating a few feet from the angered reptile. She sat in the sand and held Merlin tightly, stroking his head and crooning to him in the same strange language in which she’d spoken to him at her fort. The black cat quickly clamed, looking up at Amy with strangely protective eyes. She bent her head to his and continued speaking to him quietly, a few of the pops and clicks with which she’d spoken to him before thrown in.

Gold Blaze calmed quickly too and Tom was dumbstruck. What was this language she spoke in? It had too much of a musical quality, every sound blending into another, and the way that she spoke it was completely gentle and relaxed. Amy stopped her gentle speaking and held her cat tightly, taking a deep breath before looking up again. “I’m so sorry,” she said, standing up with the cat hanging on her shoulders. “I should have known he would do that.”

“How did you do that?” Tom asked, watching the completely calm cat watch Gold Blaze only mildy cautiously. Amy looked at Merlin’s eyes too, smiling a little.

“He trusts me,” she said quietly, stroking the cat’s nose and getting him to show what had to be the cat equivalent to a smile. “If I tell him that he needs to trust people around me, he’ll try to…”

“But how do you talk with him?”

“The same way you talk with Gold Blaze,” Amy answered simply, her face getting serious again as she looked back at them. “Thanks for saying that you believe me, even if you don’t.”

“No, I do,” Gold Blaze said earnestly. Tom nodded with a smile at his reptilian friend, patting the dragon’s shoulder. Amy smiled at him gratefully, no longer afraid of the fire-breathing creature in front of her. The dragon suddenly snorted. “Where are my manners?”

The dragon bellowed again, Amy stepping back a little and covering her cat’s ears, and his cry was answered by a high tenor. Amy looked up to see a much younger dragon, a much more fiery color than Gold Blaze, diving down towards them at a breathtaking speed. The dragon flared his wings suddenly, landing on the beach lightly while nearly knocking Tom and Amy off their feet. Merlin nudged Amy’s face then jumped out of her arms, heading towards the large forest nearby. When he paused to wait for her, she clicked a pattern. The cat seemed to shrug, then ran off.

The younger dragon was blowing out a huge fountain of flame until Tom punched his shoulder affectionately. “Hey, what was that for?” the young dragon asked, ruffling his reddish bat wings.

“Streak, this is Amy,” Gold Blaze said, dipping his head towards Amy. “We’re going to give her the Grand Tour of the Valley.”

The reddish gold dragon eyed Amy for a moment. “Don’t you think you should have called Cloud?”

Gold Blaze laughed and whispered something to the other dragon. “Well, if you say so…” the young dragon said, shrugging uncertainly. “Name’s Sun Streak. Nice to meetcha.”

Amy dipped her head towards him, one of her hands resting on a strange piece of wood tied to her side now that Merlin was absent. “So, how are we going to tour?”

“Flying,” Tom answered with a mischievous grin. “You’re going to have to get used to it now that you’re living here. You can ride Blaze. No offense, old pal, but since you’re older you’re more safe for the new kids.”

“Who are you calling a kid?” Amy asked, crossing her arms and arching an eyebrow. “You aren’t any older than I am, if I’m not mistaken. I’ll ride you, Blaze, but only if you promise not to treat me like I’m really new at this.”

Blaze nodded, a draconic grin on his face, as Amy climbed quickly onto his back and settled into a comfortable position. She watched as Tom did the same on Streak, though he was a bit slower. “Ready?” Blaze asked.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Amy replied, hanging onto one of the many spikes protruding from the dragon’s neck. She felt Blaze tense, raising his wings high, before leaping into the air with a rush of air pressing Amy to his back. Three strokes of the dragon’s wings lifted them over a hundred feet in the air, and soon they were soaring above the Valley once again. “This is beautiful!”

“If you think that this is good, you should see it at night!” Blaze yelled back at Amy, flying a little closer to Streak and Tom. “At the far, innermost end of the Valley,” he began, nodding his head towards a thick area of dark forest, “is where the Academy is for the warriors, who most people call Moon warriors. It’s fitting, too.

“The mountains around here are home to most of the dragons, griffons, hippogriffs, phoenixes, and a few others, but the Pegasi, centaurs, and other creatures better suited to flat ground live in the valley itself. The dwarves made the cliff homes, and tunnels go all through the walls of the Valley. If you don’t know where they are, the only way to get into the Valley is by flying.”

“Very impressive,” Amy said loudly. She gasped as a gust of wind threw Blaze off balance for a moment, and he wobbled in the air as the strong winds tried to toss him about. Amy held on tightly, feeling like a small child on a bucking horse until Blaze evened out his flight again.

“You alright back there?” Blaze call, turning his head to look at her. Amy relaxed a little and nodded, yelling out an affirmative. Streak and flew over quickly, panic showing on their faces. “She’s alright, don’t worry!”

“I think we’d better land and continue the tour on foot!” Tom yelled over to Blaze. The dragon nodded and folded his wings slightly, going into a dive towards the beach at the Valley again. Amy bent forward, making herself as small as possible to help them go even faster, and braced herself as Blaze flared his wings to land. Streak did the same, and Tom and Amy slid off the dragons at the same moment.

“That was fun!” Amy grinned, straightening her hair a little.

“You weren’t scared?” Streak asked. “You guys did a barrel roll!”

“We did?” Amy said, genuine surprise showing on her face. She thought it over for a moment before shrugging. “Well, that was fun, but Merlin’s expecting me over in the woods.”

“Okay, just don’t get lost out there,” Tom said, patting Streak’s shoulder. Amy nodded and jogged briskly towards the forest, searching for her black feline under the dappled sunlight. She spotted him dozing, a large white spot on his belly showing.

“Hey, kitten,” she said quietly, sitting down next to him. His hurt leg was stretched out under the cast, and when Amy felt it, it was slightly warmer than his other legs.

“Have fun?” Merlin said quietly, opening one of his eyes to look at her.

“Of course I did,” Amy grinned, once more speaking in her strange language. “Apparently I survived a barrel-roll.”

Merlin nodded, yawning and sitting up. He started licking one of his paws and eyed Amy. “You seem preoccupied.”

Amy nodded, scratching the cat’s head gently. “It’s just… Something about this place isn’t quite right. The Valley is huge. It would take at least two days to get from one end to the other on foot; and you remember how far we walked in that amount of time to get to the fort from our house.”

“I’ve noticed that the air smells different, too,” Merlin added, crawling into Amy’s lap. “I caught a mouse, and it tasted much wilder than any of the ones at the fort.”

“Well, that’s bound to happen,” Amy said. She looked up at the sun, which was above the horizon but still low. “It’s a lot hotter here than Home.”

“Nothing we can do about that,” Merlin shrugged. “But there are several things we can do here. One, we could go exploring. Two, we could go to that human village in the cliffs, or three, you could go swimming while I go spy on someone.”

“How about we go to the village?” Amy said, glancing over at the buildings. “I’m sure there will be other cats like yourself, and maybe a few dogs for you to chase.”

Merlin grinned again, climbing up to hang around the woman’s shoulders while she stood and walked out of the forest. She still had her pack with her, and pulled out two strips of dried meat for Merlin and herself while they climbed up a clearly visible path to the village. As they neared, it looked more and more like an Anasazi cliff village to Amy, who marveled at the size of the area. She finally stepped into the area, which was already buzzing with activity. Large crowds swarmed between the clay buildings, loud chatter unnerving Amy and Merlin. Both were quite unused to people, and Merlin tensed around Amy’s neck considerably.

Amy herself gripped the piece of wood by her side, but stepped into the crowd. Immediately caught by the river of people, she was swept further and further into the huge cave until she was in a large, clear area with a single, large spring in the very center. “A plaza,” Amy muttered to herself, watching a few small children playing on the edge of the deep pool with adults watching nearby. Men and women standing behind large stands shouted out prices for various things lying in front of them, from decorative jewels to hunting knives.

Merlin trembled on her shoulders, and she looked for a quiet place to go so he could calm down. Only one building on the edge of the plaza looked suitable, but as soon as she entered she didn’t like it one bit. It was a bar. The bartender watched her for only a moment before asking her what she wanted.

“Nothing,” Amy said, looking around the bar nervously. It was oddly empty. “Wrong building.”

“I think you’ve come to exactly the right place,” a young boy’s voice said nearby. Amy looked over and saw a young boy, no more than eleven or twelve years old, with a large rum bottle in one hand. Half of the liquid inside was gone, and the boy hiccupped as he stood and staggered over. He wore black, silk clothes, and his shaggy black hair hung down into his eyes. A sword and several small knives were attached to the various belts and loops on his belt and shirt. “Name’s Shinzo, ma’am. May I help you?”

Amy watched him lean up again a chair and promptly fall over, glancing at Merlin and back. ‘Shinzo’ stood up abruptly, and walked over to Amy. “Wanna come over to my place?”

Amy’s eye twitched, and she slapped Shinzo as he attempted to kiss her. The bartender burst out laughing as Shinzo stalked back to his seat and sat there, hunched. “Another plan foiled, eh, Shinzo?” another voice laughed. Amy turned and saw another girl similar to herself walk in, but with red hair and bright green eyes. She wore a cotton outfit, all green and brown colored. The other girl eyed Merlin carefully before introducing herself. “Name’s Robin,” the girl said, walking a little closer. “Don’t mind Shinzo, the little pervert. He’s had a little too much to drink after he lost his last job.”

“I’m Amy,” Amy said, nodding. “And what kind of job?”

“I’m an assassin,” Shinzo said, turning and glaring at Amy, who blinked and raised an eyebrow.

“It’s true,” Robin said, sighing. Amy noticed a bow on the girl’s back as she shrugged. “And, as much as I hate to admit it, a good one. Hey…” Robin looked at Merlin closer, then grinned. “So you’re the one!”

“Huh?” Amy said, she and Merlin looking at each other and then back at Robin.

“Tom’s my brother,” Robin said, crossing her arms. “He told me all about you. You can control that cat of yours, you killed a Shadow with just a spear and weren’t even hurt, and you can ride dragons like it was second nature, even though you’ve never seen any.”

“ What?” the bartender and Shinzo asked, both turning from the bar and leaning towards Amy with interest. Amy shifted her weight and glanced at Merlin again.

“First of all, I don’t control my cat,” Amy said. “He’s a complete individual. Second, I did kill a Shadow with a spear, but Merlin was the only reason I beat it. And he got hurt. Third, riding a dragon feels almost exactly like riding a horse bareback, which I’m very good at. It’s true that I’ve never seen any dragons before today, either. Or griffons, phoenixes, hippogriffs… you get the picture.”

Robin and Shinzo gaped at her for a moment while the bartender merely rubbed his forehead and had a drink of Shinzo’s rum. “You killed a Shadow?” he asked. Amy nodded and scratched Merlin’s chin. “And you said that you only won cause of your cat?”

Amy nodded again, crossing her arms. “You don’t have to believe me,” she said, Merlin bumping her cheek with his nose.

“Can we leave now?” he asked. “This place smells like your father.”

Amy smiled at him. “Sure,” she said quietly. Looking up at Robin, she began using English again. “Could you take us somewhere quiet?”

“What wrong with this place?” Shinzo asked.

“Merlin doesn’t like how it smells,” Amy answered, smiling a little as the cat sneezed for emphasis. Robin grinned as well.

“Sure,” she said. She headed for the door and motioned for Amy to follow. “And Shinzo, Miguel wants to talk to you. I’d drink a load of strong coffee before going to see him if I were you.”

Shinzo turned back to the bar and took another drink of rum, muttering something but nodding in acknowledgement. Amy followed Robin out of the door, back into the crowd. The noise and size of the crowd had lessened considerably, so Merlin wasn’t quite as tense. But Amy wasn’t any less tense than before. Several people stopped to watch her, her smooth, liquid gait so different from other people’s loud, ‘normal’ walk. When they had climbed a long ladder and were at the largest and highest building, they were above most of the noise.

The building was quite beautiful, a high wall enclosing it and the courtyard. A large, neat hole nearby served as an entrance, and as soon as Amy stepped inside she gasped and looked around. The courtyard was a large, quiet garden, a few sparrows flitting about and singing. A small spring in one corner fed a stream that twisted like a snake through the roots of trees and shrubs. A path of gravel wound its way towards a square doorway leading into the building, and Robin led Amy down this and into a long hallway. They went left and walked for a ways, at least twenty wooden doors on either side. Robin stopped at the last door and opened it, revealing a cozy room with a large window on the other end that looked out at the Valley.

The walls were their natural adobe color, unlike the outside walls, which were whitewashed. A bed stood in one corner, clean cotton sheets neatly on the feather-stuffed mattress and pillow, which in turn lay on a frame made of strong, dark, and gnarled wood. A nightstand stood next to it, an old-fashioned oil lamp neatly on top. “This is your room,” Robin said. Merlin meowed and jumped off of Amy’s shoulders, then leapt up to her pillow and curled up.

“We love it,” Amy grinned, tossing her pack on the end of the bed and yawning.

“I’ll bring you some breakfast if you want,” Robin offered. Amy shook her head, looking outside and then at Merlin.

“We’ve both had a hard night,” she said. “I think we’ll get some sleep instead, if that’s okay.”

Robin nodded. “I’ll come wake you up tomorrow morning,” she said. “I know quite a few people who are going to want to meet you.”

Amy nodded and sighed as Robin shut the door, walking over to the window and pulling two wooden shutters closed on it. The room darkened immediately, and Amy yawned again as she opened her pack, pulled out her leather pajamas, and put them on. As she crawled under the cotton sheets, curled up a little, and let Merlin curl up against her chest and under her arm, she thought about changes she’d have to make. Merlin would be shedding terribly until he was used to the heat, and she’d have to get new clothes. It would be hard for her to get used to the heat, especially since she’d lived in a cold climate for so long. She fell asleep quickly despite the dawn-like light in the room and the growing heat, Merlin purring softly beside her.
 
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Saffire Persian

Now you see me...
I was impressed by this chapter -s orry I didn't review sooner! didn't know it was out.. PM me when you get a new chapter out, will you? XD.. I love Amy's comment about her not controlling her cat.. XD I'm in love with this story, do continue it.

Oh! i have also made a banner to advertise this story for you... I'm in love with it. ^^

You can view it Here
 

Nirarekdan

Well-Known Member
Oh, thank you! The cat in the banner looks exactly like my Merlin! One thing though... the title's Black Waters... Other than that, I love that banner!

I'm having a bit of a writer's block, but I'll get the next chapter in as soon as I can. Thanks for sticking with the story!
 

Nirarekdan

Well-Known Member
Thankies! And don't worry about your mind being foggy. Merry Christmas! *throws Merlin plushie at your head*
 
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