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The Introduction


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Consciousness comes quickly with the weightlessness of falling. My eyes open the moment my head cracks against the earthen floor, my body slumping limply alongside it. The pain of this impact is somehow dulled, and as I seek to understand why I notice a strange presence within me. It is not something to be touched or seen, but the sheer pervasiveness of it is impossible to ignore.

“She cannot stay. The Elders have made their judgement. It is only you that opposes us. Need I remind you of the laws, Shehyn?”

There is silence for a time. The pounding of my heart infuses my body with a strange energy. It is almost as if it does not beat of its own accord, or as if it is being bolstered by a fervour I cannot identify. My surroundings are lightless, but there are two human shapes outlined in a soft glow but a few meters from my position. The figure with the red aura speaks, and her quiet words deepen the shade of this silhouette.

“Leave us.”

Words of argument are followed by those of disdain until, finally, there is silence once more. The quiet impact of each receding footfall reverberates through my body, each wave of sensation solidifying the knowledge that I am being left alone with my quarry. This remaining figure approaches until the electric wisps of her crimson aura lash against my face.

“Stand, Khellen.”

I recognize my name through the haze of energy clouding my consciousness. The words repeat in my mind until I know that something else is familiar; I can discern anger, disappointment… and pity. The figure repeats this command, her expectation of compliance beginning to exceed her patience, and I struggle to rise from the cold, damp ground. It takes several muddled moments for me to realise that my hands have been bound from wrist to elbow, throwing off my balance and forcing me to use other means to ascend.


The world comes into sharp focus. She stands over me, her sword sheathed discreetly beneath the folds of her clothing. I know that this sword, shining brightly in my clouded vision, is the essence of my target, and to achieve my acquisition of its power I must slay its wielder. I reach for Rhintyr, hardly bothered by the knowledge that- aside from the belt at my waist- the sturdy twine about my arms constitutes my only physical protection from harm.

The diminutive woman’s fist slams into my jaw with such force that I am rocked backwards. My right hand, now clutching firmly at Rhintyr’s pommel, draws my blade as my bound arms flail in an attempt to re-establish balance. I feel the cool slice of Rhintyr’s edge; a widening gash grows along the bare skin of my belly as my body slams back into the ground. My breath is gone and my vision dims, only those insidious sparks of aura remaining fully visible.

“Stand, Khellen! Get a hold of yourself, child.”

There is anger again in this outburst, but through the pain of my body and the muddled mess of my mind I hear an underlying tenderness that brings memories of these past years rushing to the forefront of my thoughts.

“Shehyn?” My voice is hoarse; speaking now manifests the knowledge that my throat has recently been harmed, and the lack of memory is unsettling. I close my eyes, my brow pulling together until the muscles of my forehead scream in protest. It is with a detached awareness that I realise my hand is drawing my blade once more.


I must have managed to return to my feet as the woman’s next strike to my gut sends me sprawling once more. My abdomen aches as the lesion acknowledges the blow, tearing, deepening. I lay in a daze: confused, frightened, and ashamed to have threatened my beloved mentor… but also excited at the prospect of doing so again.

“Fight it, child. I cannot help you in this. You must overcome him of your own accord.”

Rhintyr pulses in my palm. The pommel seems to vibrate in my hand, and I am momentarily overcome by his lust for battle. His desire for blood. His need for domination and acquisition.


I slam my dominant hand into the ground with as much force as I can muster. Something sharp bites into my skin and I hiss with pain, the ensuing ache subjecting me to a wild dichotomy of emotions: the pain is almost as energizing to him as it is restorative to my split psyche. I gasp for breath, my heaving chest tearing further at the wound marring my belly. I rely on these steady twinges to slowly begin restoring my sense of reality and my breathing gradually calms.

“Shehyn,” I whisper, my lamenting call bringing tears to my eyes. The shame and confusion encompass me fully in this moment and my shoulders heave in a sob as I recognise the full disgrace of my actions. Never would I have imagined myself capable of striking out with such intensity, with such true intent to cause my family harm.

Energy emanates from the pommel of my blade, like a disease struggling to infect and overcome its host. In this moment, I want nothing more than to cast my birthright aside, to banish it from my life and being. With each aching inhalation I imagine this action and the relief I would surely feel. But as each breath leaves my body, my inability to perform as I desire is further cemented. The skin of my palm moulds perfectly to Rhintyr’s pommel, and I know somewhere in my soul that this feeling- this affinity that we share- will last beyond the moment I draw my final breath.

But I am alone with my unseen menace. I am alone in my plight to stand strong in the face of subjugation, and in the re-exertion of my own will. The weight of my fear and of my shame is crippling, and I feel my face crumble as the tears broaden their streams. I am too dangerous to be left alone in Haert. I am too dangerous to remain among my kin, my family, my homeland. I have attempted to kill Shehyn.

“I am here, child.”

Warm fingers stroke the damp skin of my cheeks, taking with them tears so desperately shed. It is an unthinkable affront to cry before this woman, my esteemed mentor, but I simply cannot keep my remorse at bay. I use what strength remains to force my hands against the ground, wincing slightly as I hear Rhintyr’s edged blade grind against the stone floor. I have not the strength to regain my composure, so I let those tender fingers brush the pain from my visage and bask in the comfort of her gentle words.

“I am here.”
January 05, 2019 12:23 am


I know that I am alone, save for the being sharing my mind and body. Shehyn is gone; I know that she must attend to the duties of Haert. She has left only water and the wispy essence of her aura, speckling the floor of an otherwise shrouded environment. There will be no food as I train, no sustenance to fuel this instinctual monster attempting to take me over. I will give him nothing until we make our peace.

I rise from my meditative pose, slowly stretching into the first position of the Ketan: Catching Sparrows. The familiarity of this training spreads strength and comfort throughout my being, and I relax into the poses.

Drifting Snow. Climbing Iron. Heron Falling.

“Who are you?” It feels strange to speak to myself, though I am attempting to direct the question at Rhintyr. I do not yet know how to communicate; words are all I may offer for now. There is a rumbling in my mind faintly reminiscent of laughter, but it is a twisted, disquieting sound. My muscles tense, and I take a moment to fortify my spirit by holding the pose. The skin of my arms and chest begin to sweat before I move on.

Dance Backward. Fan Water. Turn Millstone.

“How did you come to be?” I bend at the waist, balancing my still-bound arms beneath me in a quiet mockery of Grandmother Gathers. While my inability to perform perfectly bothers me, I recognise the benefit of remaining bound. I have made no attempt to do away with the sturdy twine, and I have no plans to do so. I will starve to death, alone in this place, before I set foot upon my homeland a broken woman.

There is quiet for a time, a strange form of tension building between us as I continue the Ketan. I feel as though he may have understood my resolve, and the idea of spending the next eternity here below the cool earth may not be a pleasant one. Ivy On The Oak is painful, the raising of my arms causing the stitches unifying the skin of my belly to pull at the inflamed surfaces. I do not break pose, even as I feel the warm trickle of blood begin to ooze down my left leg. The pain is bothersome, but reassuring as I feel some measure of control over our conflict.

My arms slash forward in a strike, my left leg easing back a step to support a strangely balanced Maiden Dancing. It is within this pose that I stumble upon a recent recollection: I was performing this very same strike when the man approached me those days- weeks?- ago. My sense of time has been disturbed, but I do recall the name he spoke:


A vaguely familiar sensation takes hold of my body. Unease strikes, and I do not have time to prepare for the pulsations of energy that fill my gut once more. There is a growing maelstrom within me, I am sure. It crashes and rages within my frame, permeating my being with a mania, a fury that I have never before imagined. My breath catches, and I am forced to my knees by the raw power being exerted over my form.

I crush both hands against Rhintyr’s pommel, nostrils flaring, teeth gritted against the pain. A snarl sounds so clearly in my mind that I cannot tell if it has been voiced aloud. In a brash exertion of will, I find myself snarling back. The sound of my voice, of my anger, returns to me some semblance of self, and within moments my snarl erupts into a frenzied roar.

“You will not have me!”

With all the strength I possess I thrust myself upwards into Break Lion. The moment this stance is complete I press forward into Threshing Wheat. Rhintyr succumbs to the force of my hands, lifting high above my right shoulder and swinging through its deadly arc. Bright, crackling amber energy explodes from within my blade, arcing with the force of my strike and pulsing through the air before me. Time seems to slow as I watch my sword fall, golden scintillations rushing forward in a mesmerizing crescent. The very middle of this arch disappears for but a moment before continuing on unimpeded, though somehow diminished.

The sound of rending stone fills my ears and I tense, suppressing a cry of alarm. I watch this seemingly weakened energy for a moment longer as it dissipates against what must be a wall of earth, faintly perceiving the rumbling vibrations of rock grinding against rock between my bare toes. I maintain Threshing Wheat as the rumbling grows, ceases, and then the thunder of rock on rock sounds somewhere before me.

I do not move. I do not speak. My throat is constricted by a mix of confusion and fear. Was I wrong in my assumption? Has someone else been here the whole time? Could I have broken something somehow? Hurt someone? I distinctly recall the feeling of free, open air beneath the swing of my blade.

My own bewilderment is amplified by a turmoil not my own. Conflicting emotions of contempt and grudging pleasure play within the confines of my now-shared soul. We stand together in a discordant, yet somehow perfect Threshing Wheat. Sweat trickles down my bare arms and legs, the salted beads inciting a pleasant sting about my wounded belly. We remain together, unified in this imitation of the stance until my arms begin to tremble in their off-balance exertions.

I take a few moments to compose myself before sheathing Rhintyr at my hip, the weight of this belt the only true vestment remaining to me. My hand remains adhered to the pommel as I step forward and towards the source of the crashing noise. It is with great reluctance that I strip my fingers from Rhintyr’s hilt and reach forward, attempting to explore the darkness with my hands.

Sweat-moistened digits perceive a smoothed rock surface. I probe to the left and right, knowing what I am feeling and simply uncomprehending of the implications. This rock, this stalagmite, has been cleanly shorn in half, and I know with every fibre of my being that it was not my blade itself to have done so.

My knees brush the cold earthen floor as I reach for the opposing edge of the cloven structure. The moment my fingers contact this surface, a warm sensation of satisfaction floods my senses. From head to toe, the exposed pores of my skin rise in their sensitivity to this emotion. A breeze I would swear should not exist bristles the fine blonde hairs adorning my frame, and his words ring out in the silence.

Name yourself, vessel.

As I stand, my fingers caress the sheer edge of the broken stalagmite, the beginnings of fascination beginning to swell in my belly. What power this weapon possesses. If it could be harnessed somehow- if we might one day reach some form of unity.

I stare into the darkness, heart thrumming a riveted cadence, and feel a quiet curve grace my lips. This demon will not have me. It is possible that I may never have him in return. But together and with intense training, we may one day achieve consonance. I will not be broken by this being.

“I am Khellen.”
January 05, 2019 12:24 am
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