Depth of the Rain by Orin Drake
A completed novel, available here.

       Depth of the Rain is my first original novel.  And, I'm afraid, it probably shows more than even I know.  Upon a second read-through and "slight edit" of the entire thing in mid 2004, I see my "style" come into being from this... sloppy junior high school English class place from whence it began.  I hated grammar, and I bet it shows.
        This story started with the glimpse of a dream after having listened to The Joshua Tree album, by U2.  Instant explosion.  Shadow came to me on a cold winter's night as I sat by the window, watching the snow.  And she would not shut up.  My god, she would not be silent.  And I couldn't be more grateful.  Her story was a major launching point in a number of ways.  Firstly, it gained me confidence that yes, maybe I actually could write down these things that were going on in my head.  The rest of the reasons are probably too personal to write... or they'd scare the hell out of people.  Either way.  She's the ghost behind my eyes when I am not strong enough, and I could never express how grateful I am to her grace, that has given my the courage and strength to be myself.
        This is by no means "the final edit", I imagine--but I refuse to change the story in any way.  The wording a little, yes.  Some slight language clean-ups (and no, I don't mean I'll be removing any curse words, dammit), but it is what it is, and that's all it will ever be.  It's "out there" now, and I feel I have a responsibility to maintain it for whoever decides to take a chance and read.  I also feel, however, that being what it is, it is the reader's job to accept it for what it is, like it or not.  Thank you for liking it.  Thank you for not.  Thank you, most importantly, for taking the time to read this story, and thanks a million more times if you should happen to write to me and tell me about your reactions.  I love that, I really do.  I'm delighted to say many of my "fans" are less "fans" than they are kindred spirits and friends, so thank you for that, as well.
        All writers are really ranters, and I've done my share.  But, in still being a writer, I must never stop ranting.  Don't block out the music.  Music is life.  Tastes are different, granted, but... music is everywhere.  Find it, listen to it, play it, love it, share it.  And better yet, create it.  The same goes for all arts--take from the pool of inspiration, meld it, create something, then place it back in the pool for others to draw upon.
        Heroes, martyrs and morons, unite.  I've come to far to lay back down.

                --Orin Drake
                July 18, 2004 

        Chapter 1 - "Come Through, Shadow."

        BEEP... BEEP... BEEP... SMACK...
        Alarms... they are things to be hated... always interrupting a good dream...  She stretched widely, then looked down on the floor to the poor, battered alarm clock.
        "Ah, you didn't deserve that."  She said quietly, scooping it up and placing it back on the night stand.  It beeped again, but she quickly unplugged it.  "That, however, you do deserve."
        Another dry school day. Rah and joy, she thought with great distaste. I'd rather have a million leeches attached to me... at once... all over my body... while my wrists were being sawed open with paper... and blunt butter knives...
        Messily, she made the bed and smacked her pillows back on top of the covers.  It wasn't going to be a fun day at all, but there was no such thing as a fun day at school for someone like her.  Someone so completely out of the "90's scene" with no real friends and a true knowledge of what school really did to people.  Being the adamant fan of The Simpsons that she was, she often spoke of setting off the independent thought alarm whenever a teacher walked by and stared, as they often did.  Maybe they didn't mean to, but they still stared.  She thoroughly enjoyed staring back and dreamt of a day when the eyes that met hers weren't dead, when she could find someone... alive...
        But this morning was a school morning, sure enough, and that always meant a dreary tiredness and a lack of everything.  Lack of will, lack of hunger, lack of attention, lack of thought.  But never, not once, lack of violent tendencies.  She laughed quietly to herself as she walked not very eagerly over to her closet.  "Never been accused of being civil..." she murmured to herself.
        She opened the small closet door and stepped inside, closing it behind her.  Listening for anyone moving about, she effectively heard murmuring around the breakfast table downstairs.  The chick and the guy were down there, alright, talking and eating their fancy waffles.  She loathed those fancy waffles, but she was satisfied that they were very busy not paying attention to her.  Turning to the side, she flipped the well hidden light switch and carefully parted the thick row of clothes.
        That old familiar feeling touched her, making her shiver happily and close her eyes for just a moment.  It was like peering into a place that had never been seen with human eyes before; magic and strange and overwhelming.  But she felt it every time. Never failing, a little tickle of magic still held her heart each time she turned to the back of the closet.  It was the only thing keeping her alive, keeping her sane.  She fully understood some of the school shooters of the past few years, and she'd found herself feeling deeply for them. But she certainly didn't want to wind up that way.  Her tiny sacred space always seemed to call to her and cleanse the built up anger lingering so close to the surface that it was about to pour out.  She'd always hide away in the darkness of the closet when the bad things happened...
        A feeling of being watched overtook her, and she spun around to the door.  Of course no one was there.  The voices were still downstairs.  But suddenly, like the dull tone of power lines when you're just close enough to hear it if you really try, she heard far too clearly for her comfort, "Today."
        The single word sent shivers of fear up her spine, but somehow they didn't seem to make it all the way to her mind.  Something deep down inside her, feeling dormant until now, simply smiled.  No stupid questions, she thought. Perhaps destiny awaits after all.
        She wasn't sure, but it seemed like the air of the closet shifted slightly into the room outside.  Another shiver overcame her, but this one was almost comfortable. Something was definitely going to happen today, and she intended to dress for it.


        As wonderful as the warm sun had felt after an eternity of winter, the summer heat was really getting to him.  It was summer far too early for his liking, having to be the one to plant the more difficult crops by hand.  The digging of just the morning alone had left his hands with tiny bleeding scrapes, the acidic soil making it hard for him to stifle screaming at times when he hit the worst parts.  He didn't hate the work as much as he loathed his father asking if he'd like to do it for him.
        "Evyn!" he heard from the cottage, taking the pain away long enough to be extremely grateful for a break.  He dropped the spade into the ground and stood up almost fast enough to be knocked right back down by the wall of heat, then wiped his arm across his forehead and looked toward the girl jaunting to him.
        "Evyn!" she called again, almost dancing toward him with a covered jug of water.  As she closed in quickly, he noticed that his little sister had been fitted with a new mint green dress, covered all over with tiny roses.  Her long, golden hair had been at one time during the morning curled tightly, but now fell everywhere.
        "You'd think Mum would've learned her lesson by now,"  he mused, holding his dirt coated hand out to her.
        She glared at him in her still very girlish way, then thrust the bottom of the jug into his hand.  Jokingly, he hissed as though she'd hurt him.  He couldn't help but open it quickly and treat himself to large gulps of water.  The coolness traveled speedily through his body as he sat heavily on the ground to relax, even if just for a few minutes.  He patted the earth next to him, inviting her to do the same.
        When she did smack against the ground, a cloud of dust took her dress.  "I knew you wouldn't be able to last a minute in that thing, Ter."  Evyn grinned widely and ducked a small smack from her, then began to drink again.  "How long until we eat?"
        The sudden crash of dishes to the floor made them both snap their heads in the direction of the clamor.  "Must be about ready."  Taerlyn said with a giggle.
        "You'd have thought Mum would have learned her lesson with trying to do twenty things at once, too."  Evyn nodded toward the cottage, taking another drink.  "I'll go get washed up. You find Dad and let's eat."
        Taerlyn nodded in response and pushed herself up from her humble seat, running off  in another cloud of dust in her already well soiled dress.  Evyn simply smiled and shook his head as he watched her go.  She'd never been much of the sweet little sister his mother had always insisted she was, even as she would curse while trying to scrub the stains out of all of her daughter's dresses.  He was able to rise again without the feeling of the sun pressing down so much, pulled the spade from the ground, and walked toward the cottage.
        Taerlyn flew across the lower field, sprinting over and around the budding grasses and toward the steep hill of the wheat fields.  Images flashed across her mind of years ago and she closed her eyes to bring them forward.  It was so clear in her head that it was as if she were living it again, living all of the times when her brother had been young enough to play pretend with her. They'd played soldiers all across the field,  Evyn sometimes taking one of her dolls as a hostage, and it would make her throw fits and splatter him with mud.  She opened her eyes and focused back on the present just in time to prevent herself from taking a spill uphill, a feat her brother would have almost been proud of.
        "Daddy!" she cried, still dashing upwards.  "Daddy, time to eat!"
        As she began to crest the hill, however, something didn't quite smell right.  For a moment, she didn't know what it was, but then her mind flashed to the days of winter that seemed well gone.  It was the smell of something burning.
        "Daddy?" she called, as she came to the top.
        She opened her mouth to call him again, but nothing came that time.  The sight in front of her made her body numb.  The far end of their field, the field they had lived on all of their lives and many a generation before them, was ablaze.  Though no wind was blowing, it was quite clear that the fire was coming toward her and the cottage quickly.
        "Daddy?" she shouted, her voice trembling with fear.  "Daddy!" she cried again, panicking and running from side to side, calling and looking everywhere for her father.  As she started back toward the cottage to warn her mother, she stumbled over a rock she knew was never there before.  A mistake she'd come to regret for the rest of her life, she looked behind her and discovered a runny, maroon heap with scraps of clothing hung from it here and there.  She screamed the second she realized the clothing was her father's overalls, and again when she saw one of his fingers.  It had been separated from the hand and flung a few feet from the body.
        Fear and uncompromising horror seized her.  She found herself pounding down the hill and toward the cottage in a disconnected state of mind, as though her body were simply flowing with the air; her mind was somewhere else, sleeping.  She certainly felt as though she were asleep, as if she'd simply fallen back into slumber after some nightmare had woken her.  Just as she had begun to truly enjoy her semi-conscious state, she was immediately reconnected to the world by the violent shaking being done by her brother.
        "Ter?" he was calling, shaking her from the shoulders.  "Ter?  Ter?"  He raised his hand and lightly struck her cheek, at which she yelped and finally looked at him instead of past him.
        "I'm here!" she blurted angrily, pushing herself away.  As if a switch had been thrown, the look of desperate horror completely filled her face again.  "Where's Mum?" she almost screamed, shaking.
        Evyn looked at her clearly for a moment, his eyes quieting her long enough for him to think.  Calmly, slowly, he asked, "Where's Dad?"  Only as uttered the words did he notice the unnaturally red mud on the front of her dress.  He began to expect the worse.
        Taerlyn shook her head as if she didn't want to tell him, but his patient big brother eyes forced her to at least point a shivering finger at the hill--smoke had begun to be very visible.  She saw the flash of dull terror mixed with a horrible disappointment in his eyes, as though he'd just seen his entire future fall.  "Where's Mum?" she moved her lips, but nothing came from her mouth.  Regardless, she knew he'd seen her question, if not actually heard it.
        "The same, I think."  He said very quietly and put a hand on her shoulder, unable to look toward their home.
        Before he could even come close to grasping the hellish events that had transpired, Taerlyn had broken away from him again and was running into the cottage door.  There was nothing he could do but run after her.  From the shrill scream she let out, he surmised she'd already seen exactly what he had; the blood splatters on the walls, and their mother's once beautiful face completely gone, her body sliced apart, pieces of dishes spread about the floor.
        Taerlyn rushed back out the door and into his arms, sobbing wildly, trying to scream but unable to do much more than cough out intense, agonizing sadness.  Evyn wrapped his arms around her tightly, trying hard not to let himself give into the emotion and lose his line of thought.  He had to stay in control.  It was hard, but he'd done it before when the old ox had been poisoned from the bad rain.  This was far worse, and he knew that he was now the sole protector of his little sister.  He had to think of something to do.
        "We have to go into town."  he said finally, his voice more still and quiet than he expected it to be.  "There might be an army ready to attack."  He nodded to himself, then led the shocked and silent Taerlyn inside of the cottage, avoiding the pieces of their mother as best as they could, to help him pack a sling of food and supplies to make their way into Tenteron.  Her eyes were glossy, but she never made a sound, only watched him pack and followed behind him when he was ready to leave.  Taking her cold hand in his, covered with sweat, blood, and dirt, they carefully stepped over the body with a shudder and started walking north. 


        She rumbled down the stairs and took the corner quickly, racing through the living room and into the kitchen.  As she emerged from the doorway, she noticed with only the smallest hint of a smile that neither parent noticed her in the least.  For the first time in a great many years, since she was too young to be forced to go to the prison one called school, she sat at the end of the table with a large smile on her face, ready to be fed whatever pre-prepared crap the mother figure had heated and spat onto a plate.
        "Ready for school, Lisa?" The father figure stumbled uninterested through his newspaper, as he did every morning.
        She grinned widely, but suppressed her usual sarcastic comments for which she'd usually get that sickening "I don't get it but I know it's wrong" look for.  "As always."  She said flatly.  It seemed to appease the demi-gods of the working world long enough to give her some peace... until two burned Pop Tarts on a cracked yellow plate from 1970-something were smacked in front of her.
        "Eat quick, you're late."  Her mother figure groaned in the work weary voice only a working "mother" who loved cubicles more than family could have spouted.  Years of depression does weird things to people, after all, not to mention the vast Prozac pills.  And, hell, whatever else she kept in that giant medicine cabinet of hers.  Half of it was most likely illegal.
        "And a good morning to you too!" Lisa said cheerfully, jamming one corner of the crispy, sugar laced bread in her mouth.
        "Don't get smart."  The mother figure responded.  It was a dumbass' way of admitting jealousy of intelligence.
        "That's what I go for school for."  Lisa returned, a huge false smile lighting her face.
        Unable to find anything intelligent to say after years of being devoid of dreams, the mother figure looked at the clock.  "Time you got going. You're late again."
        "Indeed, indeed I must go."  She said, somewhat overdramatically.  She lifted and took one more rancid bite of charred breakfast/dessert food and swallowed it before the taste could completely find her tongue.  She walked to the back door and grabbed the black backpack on the coat rack in the corner, swinging it over her shoulder.  With a vicious smile on her face, she walked back into the kitchen and stood there in full view of the people droning there.
        "Bye."  She said, watching their dead eyes glance at her.  No waves, no words, no emotions.  Just the looks.  And exactly as she had learned to expect, neither parent had noticed what she'd been wearing.  They hadn't even noticed she'd dyed her hair black with two dark blue stripes in front where she parted it.  She'd come to the conclusion sometime between right then and her birth, that anything she felt was important would be completely ignored by those people she was forced to live with (on account no one would give her a job even when she looked normal).  People need to be able to go on and on about bullshit, after all, and she was not one to talk about the same kind of bullshit most human beings did.  Her bullshit was usually humorous and violent.
        Satisfied somehow in her assurance that perhaps something really was going to occur today, she walked out the door with a completely blank mind, walked a block toward school, turned, and began walking directly back.  She looked with great interest into the kitchen window of the house she'd just left, and saw that the parental people had gotten on their necktie nooses, prepared to walk out the door.  While she was absolutely certain that she could have stood in the driveway and been completely unnoticed even if they'd plowed over her with their cars, she quickly crouched behind the neighbor's hedges.
        Two clicks... two more clicks... both cars grumbled and started, then slowly drove off in different directions.  With a definite nod, she slipped in the back door, locked it behind her, and slipped out of the backpack, crashing the useless wastes of paper inside to the floor.  Something within her was going completely insane, and she felt it strongly.  All of her life she'd been, to put it gently, very off.  She'd always been a dark person, looking deeply into people here and there, always walking along a dangerous line and getting away easily.  She'd also been a complete chameleon when she'd wanted to be, especially around her parents.
        No one liked to be around her much; they'd always run off like a scared fawn from a wolf, a wolf being only one of the many animals of which she held close kindred.  All of her life she'd held predatory instincts, strong personal morals, and a lust for blood; not something that most people would deem "normal".  She was convinced no one would ever know any of those things, since no one could come close enough or spend enough time around her to bother asking.  While she was certainly not the most popular person in school, she was never touched after she'd beaten the first bully within and inch of his life.  It was around that same time that she'd learned of her chameleon abilities, and had gotten away with it completely free.  Though her entire manner wreaked of "don't mess with me", it was more of her ability to blend in and out of situations that she enjoyed using.  That is, until the very bad times started to occur.  No other child had ever talked to her, let alone looked at her, again.  Even in high school, great church of the raging hormones, no one had approached her, and for that she was grateful.  It may have been easy to beat up a child as a child, but to tear one's arms off and beat them lifeless as an adult was harder to carry on without consequence.
        As she made her way back up the steps, she recalled more reoccurring stories of her life.  She'd always heard a voice inside of her, more strongly when she listened to music.  But always, always it had told her the same thing.  "You are Shadow", it used to repeat sometimes when she was trying to sleep.  It wasn't the voice that had frightened her at first, it was the naturalness that she felt when it spoke that sent the shivers up her spine.  Over the passing years, however, she'd learned that she was simply different than the others--the main difference being that she could still dream.  She never dismissed the things she constantly saw out of the corner of her eyes, and had come to understand that everything, everywhere, was somehow connected with something else, some place else.  Doorways everywhere, she used to say when she snuck out of the house to walk at night.  I do wish I had one to walk through right now...
        Coming to the top of the stairs, she stopped to look at herself in the full length mirror in the hall.  Hey eyes slowly moved from top to bottom, inspecting her thin 5'4" frame.  She admired her brand new black, 80's style high tops.  She'd searched years for them and finally found some on the internet.  The black laces laid neatly in a tight bow below the velcro strap she'd been delighted to play with for hours after she'd finally received them in the mail.  After all, who doesn't love velcro? God bless that internet, she thought with a smile.
        From the shoes, her eyes traveled up her Slash-tight black jeans; brand new and feeling every inch of it, the stiffness almost unbearable.  They do look good, she mused, slowly following the lines up to her most prized possession;  her previously unworn black Guns N' Roses T-shirt that she'd bought off of E-bay only a month earlier, the beautiful symbol of crossed guns and roses laying on a yellow circle dripping blood.  It had been a perfect fit, and looking at it now in the mirror, it looked almost too good to be on her.  Finally she brought her eyes to her face, and almost fell right back down the stairs.  From behind the dark blue and black wisps of hair that tickled her cheeks, she saw glowing embers lighting her eyes.  For just a moment, she thought she'd caught what looked like tiny bursts of everything.  A brilliant burst of color, of a star.  The thought was fixated in her mind and wouldn't let itself be put away.  She continued to stare into the mirror completely unable to free herself of her own gaze, transfixed on an orange glow inside of her eyes; eyes which she had never seen before but woken up to always.
        The eyes, her eyes, ancient eyes, died from their orange to a brilliant blue, and her world was overcome with it.  She tried to blink, to tear her gaze from the mirror, but her head would not obey.  A voice was heard whispering in her ear, but it was not the voice she had heard all of her life.  It was a voice that reminded her of Star Wars for some reason, and it was crossing worlds and centuries and somehow letting her hear.  "Step through, Shadow."  Like the weeping of a little girl, the voice passed her ears and was gone.  The same instant in which the blue glow went and left her staring blankly into the mirror at herself.
        "Oh."  It was all she could make herself say.  Her mind was a blur and she shook her head to clear it, but it only confused her further.  Some force tickled the back of her mind, and she decided to simply let it guide her, as far away as it would allow her to escape.  She felt detached but in control, running on auto pilot but watching the whole thing from the control room.  The tickling force led her down the stairs, made her pick up her back pack, and go back up to her room.  It had her pour her useless books out, and gather bits and pieces of things together.  Socks, underwear, two pairs of black jeans, five randomly selected shirts from her "special shirts" drawer, various scraps of fabric she'd almost forgotten about, and her small but treasured collection of four daggers and one light but very sharp katana sword.  She had them easily hidden from her parents by putting them in plain view.
        The tickle rushed her down the stairs and packed up all of the jerky (of which she wasn't all that fond but let the tickle lead her anyway) and rummaged through a treasure trove of condensed and ready to eat food.  She didn't bother paying attention to what was being packed from the food-o-matic cabinets, as she was certain it all tasted the same anyway.  The tickle picked her up and lead her back upstairs into her room.
        "So... now what?" she asked no one in particular, but an answer came just the same.  The door to her closet slowly creaked, and as she looked at it, she saw a soft blue glow emanating from the crack underneath.  Somehow she didn't feel at all surprised (although, sitting in the control room, she thought that she probably should).  She looked around at her room for a very long time.  Walls, ceiling, floor, old torn posters.
        Eyes back to the closet, she grasped the knob.  "No one to say good-bye to."  She joked, the feeling of being in a dream filling her completely.  As she opened the door, the blue light poured out like a liquid, filling the entire space in pure, splashing sky.  The back wall of her closet had completely disintegrated, leaving behind what she could only associate with the vast star fields seen outside every window on what she used to catch of Star Trek: The Next Generation while waiting for a better show.  Nothing but stars behind the blue glow, just whispering, whirling galaxies of stars, all of them calling to her in her mind, "Come through, Shadow..."
        For a long moment, she stood there, far away but trapped right in front of the starry expanse contained within her closet.  Of all the things in the world that could happen to me... she thought, the voice in her head sounding dreamy and weak.  Closing her eyes, she drew a slow breath and stepped just inside the closet, feeling the empty air pull on nothingness.
        "Echo."  She whispered on her breath.  The word immediately came back to her, filled with a thousand tiny celestial pings that sounded like one of those New Age orchestras she'd always cringed at.  Now, however, the sound filled her with a solid surety.  It was as if the echoes were alive, waving wildly in front of her.
        "Come through, Shadow."  She spoke to herself, in an echoless, emotionless tone.  With another deep breath, she closed her eyes and passed through the starry gateway... 


        Evyn's mind had wandered far beyond the reaches of the stretch of land they were walking, dancing around in some alternate dimension where his parents were still alive and he was just dreaming.  He'd almost convinced himself of his illusion until he felt his work boot slosh in warm water.  Looking down, the dreamy image of laying in his room faded away into a muddy puddle in the middle of a forgotten path.
        With a sigh, he reached down to wring the sides out and realized that he was still holding Taerlyn's fragile hand.  To his dismay, the dream had completely faded, the heat of the sun and shock of seeing his mother finally hitting him hard.  He just stood there, deep in the puddle, running a hand through his hair and wanting to punch something, hard.  Looking to his little sister for some comfort, he saw a glaze over her eyes and a distance about her.  She wasn't so much as sweating, and it filled him with another wave of helplessness.  He released her hand and fell back into the short grass to think, his foot still in the puddle, shrugging all of the heavy bags he'd packed onto the ground.
        "I want to go home."  Taerlyn whispered just barely over the hot breeze.  Her tone was childish and afraid, but her face didn't show it.  Her face barely had color to it at all, yet alone hints of emotion.
        "Me too."  Evyn said evenly, closing his eyes to hold back the tears.  He thought of their only trip away from home, going into Tenteron with their father to try and sell part of the farm.  No one had wanted it, of course; the land had been destroyed almost everywhere and nothing they'd owned would have been worth any money or trade at all.  Bitter wheat and ruined strawberries were all they could really harvest, but their mother always insisted, every ungodly dead year, to plant the bulbs and see if the greens would come up.  Of course they never did, but she kept trying.  She was just so...
        A sudden thump and shake of the ground woke Evyn quickly.  He sat bolt upright, looking toward the direction from which it had come.  He saw movement between a small grove of trees several yards away from the path.  As long as we don't move... he thought, ducking down under the grass carefully, feeling his heart racing.  So long as we're quiet we-- and then his stunned eyes finally caught a hold of Taerlyn, still standing in a silent trance, her dress making her stand out in the grass like a drop of blood on new snow.  He looked over at the movement in the bushes to try and make sure she hadn't been seen, but the bush was gone.  In fact, it was hidden behind a huge monster coming right for them.

        At first she could do absolutely nothing but be there, looking, completely and absolutely amazed.  Not only had she survived the doorway with no obvious damage, but she'd landed, whole, in another world.  Everything was different, and everything was so similar.  So she stood there.  Just stood there on shivering legs, looking through brush to a scene that so resembled a movie that when she tried to relax, she was quite surprised to find herself standing up.  Her head echoed with questions: Why don't I have to go to the bathroom?  Why didn't I feel anything?  Why aren't I hungry?  Why do I care?
        As her eyes cleared and her mind stopped twirling from its journey, she finally made connections.  She was watching a large monster, something between a man and a bulldog standing about eight feet tall, raising an ax above the head of a little girl.  Not a normal scene to be unfolding in front of her, she was pretty sure.  Just as she was beginning to ponder whether or not she should interfere, she found her own legs had decided for her, running her out into the open.  The ugly dog thing growled and looked right at her, its jagged yellow teeth standing out quite well from the gray fur.
        Oh crap, came her first thought.  She found that her long history of thinking quickly stood right behind her, and she let it pass to the front.  "Hey ugly!" she called, completely unaware of what to do next.
        The hulking mass raised the ax higher above its head and turned its entire body to face her.  She saw with little reassurance that the thing had no real armor.  Straps of plain leather crossed its chest and over its crotch, a leather cap with a small metal spike sat on top of it's head, making its donkey-looking ears almost as prominent in her mind as its teeth.  The thing snarled and snorted like a bull and began to walk the short distance between them.
        She gulped unconsciously.  In desperation and complete and absolute terror, she cried, "Over there!" and pointed.  Right after she'd opened her mouth, the only coherent thought she was capable of:  Well, that was incredibly stupid.
        In an absolutely astounding feat of luck and cold, cruel fate, the beast was obviously not very bright.  To her amused excitement, she saw the creature stop, lower the ax, turn, and look behind itself.  Her jaw dropped and she was transfixed.  Had she been able, she certainly would have rushed forward and stabbed the thing in the back, but there was no way she could have moved then, deep breaths of laugher pleading to let themselves from her lips.
        A body flung from the grass finally broke her out of her fascination, and she saw a tall blond boy jump up and kick the thing in the leg.  The monster didn't seem to so much as feel a touch, but it certainly did see him.  As it raised its ax and began to turn, a large rock flung by the newcomer ricocheted off of the leather cap, making a dull thud.  Just as it seemed the beast hadn't felt that hit either, it roared and collapsed on it's back, shaking the ground and flinging the ax within inches of the newcomer's toes.  She only stared at it, glad it hadn't been flung further.  Still completely stunned, she was unable to show much emotion at that point in time or she probably would have screamed or began a long series of insane, giddy laughter.
        Evyn looked at the newcomer with very wide eyes.  He'd known that the "Hey ugly!" hadn't come from his sister, but he wasn't prepared to find anything quite so odd as he found himself staring at.  Seeing her black shirt with roses around two things he couldn't identify on a field of blood made him very uneasy, and her hair made him ever more so.  He watched closely as the newcomer's amber-hazel eyes shifted from him to his sister and back, then down at the ax sticking up from the ground in front of her.  To his amazement, he saw a smile light her face and shuddered.
        "Hi."  She called almost cheerfully, looking back at him.  She looked again at the girl, the girl who'd made not a move or a sound during the entire event, and noticed the glossy look.  She still seemed to be staring off into space, into a small grove of trees, either completely unaware or too afraid to move.
        Evyn's protective big brother instincts took over, and he quickly rushed to get between the odd newcomer and his sister, prepared to grab the ax from her feet if he had to.  Still reeling with anger from the discovery of his mother, the adrenaline pulsed readily.  The newcomer didn't seem aware of him, or perhaps simply wasn't interested.  She was just standing, turning is a small, slow circle, looking from her feet to the horizon.
        She turned back to him somewhat suddenly and decided to do the best thing she could think of at that moment.  She offered a hand and asked, "So, nice day?"
        He stopped in his tracks and stared, completely amazed at the calmness she showed.  He opened his mouth to say something, anything, but nothing wanted to come out.  The whole world had tuned completely inside out and up side down, and now he was stricken with an intense feeling of... "I'm Evyn."  He heard himself say.
        The newcomer grasped his cold hand.  "I'm..." she paused and titled her head, then continued, "Shadow.  And I'm really good with rocks."
        Without the real ability to respond, the boy simply pointed at her shirt.  She looked down for a moment as if studying it, then looked back up at him in a questioning way.  "Guns N' Roses."  She said, as if it were a well known fact.
        Evyn could only nod, still not understanding--and at the moment not really caring, either.  He was rather lost, to say the least, and the shock and adrenaline just really made him want to drop to the ground right where he was, curl into the fetal position, and sleep for a good few years.
        "If you don't mind me asking," Shadow whispered, "What's up with her?" she indicated Taerlyn with her eyes.
        Evyn swallowed.  Though the stranger had just saved his life (and seemed "good" enough), there was something about her... something he couldn't quite put his finger on.  Of course, he considered, an enemy was probably a lot worse to make of her than a friend.  "She's just a little... numb."  He answered, his voice shaking slightly.
        "I guess I see that..." Shadow gazed at the young girl, her eyes so far away.  There was something so sad and disturbing about it, and the more she looked the more she realized Evyn had a softer version of the same expression.  Nothing to lose and nothing to live for, she met his stare and asked, "You two in some sort of trouble?"
        "How did you..." He began, but promptly shut his mouth.  Friend or not, he didn't think it wise to start discussing personal matters with someone he just met.  Most especially with someone so... odd.
        Shadow looked at herself, as if for the first time.  She realized how horrendously evil she must have appeared.  "Yes, I'm a freak in my world, too..." she heard herself saying.
        "Is that... a bad thing?" he stuttered.
        She looked up at him and appeared to think for several seconds before she answered.  "Not a bit."  Her gaze shifted to the staring blond girl for just a second.  "Well... I guess I better go."
        "Do you have anywhere to go?" Evyn asked, only curious.  He couldn't have fathomed her having a place in the entire world.
        "No."  She answered honestly.  She grasped his hand before he could say anything, have a chance to think to say anything, and shook it again.  "Nice meeting you, Evyn."  She turned and started to walk down the path in front of her.  There was no point in standing around just deciding where to go, so she went where her heart told her to: "that-a-way".
        Evyn stood stiffly, numbly, watching her.  Instinct dictated that strangers were all bad people, just as their parents had taught them.  But he couldn't deny something about the stranger that he found almost... charming.  Safe, in a way.  He bit his lip and pondered, finally deciding that if they were all going the same way anyway, they may as well travel together.  After all, she'd taken pretty good care of one monster, and there was no telling how many others were out there.  He looked at Taerlyn, took a deep breath, and decided to take the chance.
        "Wait... Shadow."  He called softly.
        She stopped and looked back at him, questioning eyes drilling him for only an instant with suspicion.  She answered just as softly as he had called her, "Yes?"
        He gathered his various shoulder packs from the ground where he'd dropped them as he talked.  "We're going that direction.  Maybe we should go together..."
        "Well that's kind of you."  She said honestly.  "Where are you headed ultimately?"
        He looked up and pointed over the large hill that made the horizon on which the path followed.  "Tenteron.  It's not very far."
        Shadow tilted her head and watched him gather all of his stuff, seeming to be a bit overloaded with it.  She walked over, glancing out of the corner of her eye a nearly motionless girl.  "I can manage a few of those if you have trouble."  She offered.
        Though he was raised a boy of manners, Evyn was becoming incredibly tempted to let someone else hold something to ease his shoulders.  Before he could decline, the stranger simply grabbed two of the water carriers off of his shoulder and threw them over her own.  She was almost instantly sorry, as the combined water and backpack felt incredibly heavy with no help from being in full sun, wearing all black.
        He didn't bother protesting.  It seemed that he was already getting a bit used to the newcomer, but reminded himself that she was still possibly dangerous.  Looking hopelessly to Taerlyn, he took his sister's hand.  A chill claimed his body as he felt hers in return, cold and limp, and gently pulled her along.
        After a few steps toward the hill, Shadow cleared her throat softly.  "I really don't mean to force my way in but I will admit a curiosity of your situation..."  She grinned slightly, a friendly but somewhat unsettling gesture.
        He considered answering her deeply.  The rational part of him had been severely pressed back by his "what the hell, it's all over anyway" attitude, and he felt he couldn't help but respond.  "Our parents were just killed... we're on our way to... find something to do..." he sighed, looking at the path right in front of him.
        She make an indistinct sound of acknowledgment.  "That sounds pretty awful, I admit."
        "And what are you doing here?"  he returned simply, the question having burned in his mind.
        She laughed very softly.  "Honestly, I have no idea.  I just kind of arrived here from another world.  But I already like this place better."
        Evyn was rather stunned by her answer, and couldn't think of anything else to say.  All three of them trudged onward restlessly for at least two hours before finally cresting the hill... and the sight slightly below and a mile ahead took their breaths away.  Tenteron was encased in vastly stretching walls of gleaming gray stone.  With a glance exchanged between Shadow and Evyn, they silently descended upon the city.

Content copyright Orin Drake 2011.
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