Chapter 0:



The howling echoes of the darkness echoed throughout the forest as Aystaria continued to run for her life. I need to get them home, she thought as she looked at the five dog tags in her hands. Keeping her hand firmly on the hilt of her sword, she continued as quickly as she could through the dark fog that blanketed the world around her. She remained as calm as she could as she recalled the directions that she had taken to get to make it home where she belonged. Okay, I just need to go a few more steps and I’ll be home, Aystaria thought as she looked behind her.

Winds howled as the sound of underbrush rustled underfoot. It sounds like they’re on me. Guess I’m not making it out of here alive, she thought as she drew her blade from its sheath. Standing at the ready, Aystaria breathed as she cleared her mind and closed her eyes. Remember, they are the shadows that can’t be seen. Feel them in the air around you, fight with your mind, not your sight, Aystaria continued to repeat the words that her commander drilled into her head day and night. As Aystaria waited to strike, she could feel the wind shift to her left, her body instinctively moved to the right. Within a flash, she cut the air in front of her, decapitating a being not of human life but of a black shadowy essence.

Opening her eyes, she could see red glaring eyes from dark shadows. Twenty eyes all trained on her and ready to strike. This was what Aystaria had trained for and was ready to die with her brothers-in-arms. As she continued to maintain her composure, she carefully studied the creatures in front of her. The monsters were black as the mid-night sky and appeared like a rotting corpse of a dead human. Ooze of black liquid fell from the bodies as if it were a waterfall of blood. Their faces showed no expressions, only a skull that struck fear into the hearts of the untrained. Weapons were crude, with most being rusted and corroded for combat. Yet, they were still deadly from possible infection.

Okay, just have to beat these guys quickly and I should make it, if not… Well, I’ll see you soon guys, Aystaria thought as she watched two of the shadowy monsters rush forward prepared to strike. As the leading monster tried to bury the tip of the blade into Aystaria’s heart, she twirled on the ball of her foot as sword passed by her body. She already calculated what the two monsters were doing and accounted for the second monster that had tried to flank her from the left side. Parrying the second with haste from underneath, she forced the second blade to bypass her arm and cross upward into the sword of the monster that had tried to stab her heart. The blade continued upward until she had forced it into the skull of the monster before her.

With one monster dead and the other unable to counter, Aystaria sliced off the second monster’s head. Taking no time to allow the enemy to think, she rushed for three more on the far right that were the closest to her. The monsters quickly drew their weapons only to fall to the ground before Aystaria made haste to the next group of enemies. As she closed the gap between her and the final group, Aystaria felt something wrap around her ankle. Hitting the ground with a thud she regained her composure as she looked at her leg. Around her left ankle was a black slime-like tentacle wrapped tightly in place. Aystaria quickly traced the tentacle back to a monster that appeared different from the others that she had been fighting for years.

It was larger than the others and his body appeared wider with loads of vesicles that covered its cold-gray looking skin. All right, well, that’s a new one for the record books, Aystaria thought as she hacked of the tentacle in one blow. Getting to her feet quickly, she defended herself from the onslaught of the five other monsters. As she tried to remained focused on the fight before her, the larger creature repeated stepped in to counteract her moves. It’s like it has intelligence, Aystaria thought as she tried to catch her breath for a second. Looking over the battlefield, she knew that she would have to take out the larger monster first. Okay, so the big one dies first, she thought as she rushed forward.

“Stragulum tenebrarum.”

In the flash of an eye, a black mist engulfed Aystaria’s body as she moved through the darkness like a wolf on the hunt. Aystaria continued until she was behind the large monster and readied to strike it dead just like she had done with the others.

“You think I can’t sense you?”

Aystaria was shocked by the tone of the monster that spoke to her in her own tongue. In that moment, the red eyes of the monster glared upon her. The split second in her confusion allowed the monster to land a single punch to her gut forcing her body to hit the ground like a brick. She was in pain as she felt the weight equivalent to that of a boulder being hurled into her. As she tried to regain her focus, another blow forced her onto her back.

“Just because you can use our magic does not make you like us.”

“Y-You can speak?”

Aystaria struggled to get the words out as she tried to coughed up a bit of blood.

“Do you believe me not to be conversing with you now?”

“T-That shouldn’t be—”

Before Aystaria could finish her sentence, she felt another blow lunge into her stomach. The sound of bones cracking was the only thing Aystaria could hear as she started to fade into the darkness of the world around her.

“There is much I can learn from you about your realm You will divulge your secrets to me.”

As her eyes closed shut, Aystaria blacked out, sealing her fate.

Six Cover