Thank you very much for taking the time to read this story, of which I'm writing for NaNoWriMo 2014, and I truly hope you enjoy it!
This is only the first draft, so expect errors and the typical things one would find in the first draft of their story.
- Aleks L. Stock
The harsh mid-morning sun blurred in and out of focus as Jayden's head swam. The large and small shapes whizzed around back and forth, constantly blocking and revealing the sun itself, didn't help the dull throbbing that resounded from just above her left eyebrow.
She opened and closed her mouth slightly, a thick coppery substance invading her mouth the moment the light hit her teeth. She grimaced weakly before lulling her head to the side, pushing the disgusting taste out of her mouth with all the strength she had in her.
Blood. She'd rather chew on a solar panel.
A large shadow ghosted over her injured form as a den-sized blur towered over her, the constant movement of the slow creative making her feel sick to the stomach. She forced herself to look to motion blur in the eye as best she could.
Would it kill the blur to stop moving? The constant shifting between light and shadow was making her migraine ten times worse, the throbbing slowly pulsing more and more of her life force out of her body and in a trickle down her face.
She groaned and kept her mouth shut as tight as she could. She was in no mood for a Jayden-flavoured blood smoothie today. If anything, she probably would never be ready for one.
She twitched as her stomach did a somersault before abruptly throwing her head to the side and throwing up what was probably a mix of stomach acid and her own blood. She felt it splatter down her arm as it landed and convulsed a second time.
“Cadets!” Commander Rivas yelled, silencing the room of unruly academy graduates.
She breathed a relieved sigh through her nostrils. It was high time the fresh meat stopped acting like it was all fun and games.
“Today is the day of your first mission as Gliders serving the city of Change.” She folded her arms and began to pace in front of the youths – too many, too young, “As Gliders we have only one job to do and it is crucial that you do not fail. There is no such thing as failure in this division,” She paused and shot the graduates a piercing look, “There is only death. Is that understood?”
“Loud and clear, ma'am!” They chorused, as well trained as every new group that entered the tower.
It was truly a shame.
“Good.” She affirmed, returning to her pacing, “Now today, your mission – as you all should know – is to stop the mountain demons from murdering our groundsmen. I will warn you now that they are fast, they are dangerous and they are bigger than some of your dens put together. Out there,” She gestured to the launching platform behind her, shielded with three thick, clear slabs – specialised in keeping the creatures out, “You must be fast, you must be ruthless and above all you must kill them before they kill you. Remember brats – you are your glider. We will not save you if you fall. Your life is your responsibility. The lives of our men and women are your responsibility, is that understood?”
A pathetic attempt at a response murmured it's way out of the crowd.
She sighed – cadets.
“I said is that understood?”
“Loud and clear, ma'am!”
“Much better.” The commander grunted before punching in a five digit code into the number pad on the wall. While the cadets watched in wonder, she paid not much mind to the shield raising through the ceiling, temporarily weakening the tower's defence. She punched in a second, separate code and the second shield rose.
A couple of cadets audibly gulped.
“Now! I want Kaine, Seras, Idann and Mikal on line one and Arden, Taner, Coper and Leene on line two.” She gestured to the two separate areas as she spoke, divided by the shields themselves, “Go.”
Without needing to be told twice, the eight cadets got into their starting positions.
The commander lightly shoved Taner further into the space – his reluctance now washing away the arrogance he displayed in the graduation ceremony the previous evening – before punching into the first code.
She smirked when four out of the eight panicked. There was nothing more entertaining than trapping a couple of cadets between the first and third defences. She shook herself out of it and punched in a third code – it was no time for games and giggles.
A small microphone extended out of the wall next to the number pad at about chest height. She comfortably leaned over the over the device, tapping it twice to test.
A couple of cadets jumping told her all that she needed to know.
“Line two stand back. Line one, get into positions and release your gliders.” Rivas ordered, calmly observing as the eight did as told, “Now I'm going to release the third defence half way. You need to duck under it and launch yourself into the sky, just like you trained. Remember what I said, cadets – there is no failure, only death.”
She punched in a fourth code and the third shield began to rise.
Before it was even a third way up the four had shot into the sky and Rivas had commanded the third shield to close as the first opening up for the next group.
“Irran, Sopra, Kiean and Blake – you're up.”
“Check it out Ricky!” Jayden shouted, grinning impishly as she flew an impressive loop in the air, “Those Riders look like a bunch of ants from up here!”
“Cool it Kaine!”
“Fuck off, Idann!” She responded, briefly flipping Harry the bird before gripping her glider handles once more, “How long do you losers think we've got? All that shit about dying and I haven't seen a single mountain demon!”
A large blur shot past in what felt like a blink of an eye before a blood-curdling scream resounded through the air, the den-sized animal thumping against the large dome's first defence as if it were perched against the ground.
It turned it's lion-like head towards Jayden, almost as if it were mocking her, before it bit Harry clean in half. Almost as if mesmerised, she couldn't help but follow the upper half of the boy's body as it fell slid down the face of the giant dome and out of sight.
And to think the last thing she said to him was 'fuck off'. She turned back to the beast, it's black beady eyes the side of her head staring at her as it swallowed Harry's legs like a bowl of noodles.
She saw red.
Rage coursed through her body as she kicked on the glider's jet and rocketed right towards the creature, extending the long, thin blades that laid concealed in her uniform's cuffs. She barely paid note to the hoard of demons flying down into the Gliders' territory, no, she was much more interested in the monster who murdered her friend.
She ate with Harry, she laughed with Harry – she even flirted with Harry – for three years of her life. She was going to be damned to No Man's Land if she didn't avenge him now.
Her blades arched through the air as she swiped for it's neck, only grazing the surface of it's tan fur before she was thrust into the dome itself by it's monstrous paw. The creature growled as it leaned forward to sniff the woman's red and black, dual-coloured hair, it's chest-size wet black nose trailing over Jayden's face as it seemed to map out it's pray.
She furrowed her brow as the demon nudged the tips of her slightly pointed ears – somewhat of a torment in her childhood – before pulling back and huffing a cloud of breath into her face. She gagged.
It smelt like death, decay and vomit all mixed together. Delightful.
“What?” She croaked, blowing a couple of black strands out of her face, “Aren't you gonna fucking eat me or something?”
It growled lightly, pushing her head into the dome with it's nose slightly. Up this close she could even see it's demon boogers.
“Well come on!” She shouted, wriggling under it's paw, “Fucking eat me already!”
'No.' A deep voice almost hummed at the back of Jayden's mind, the demon breathing into her face again as if it wasn't the most disgusting stench in the universe.
“Why the fuck not?”
'I do not eat creatures of the forest.' It responded, leaning back somewhat as it did so.
“The fuck's that supposed to mean?” Jayden growled, “I'm just as human as the rest of these chumps!”
It chuckled before drawing back.
'Very well. Send Aiierynn my regards.' It hummed as it removed it's paw and dug it's rows of razor sharp fangs into the woman's torso. A scream tore its way out of her throat before she was hurdled through the air at break-neck speeds.
The last thing she felt was her back snapping against a tree and her world fading to black.
Jayden groaned as the blur stopped moving. Finally.
She tried to speak – to say thank you or something – but her throat only produced a thick sludge of blood that soured her tongue and dribbled down her chin in what was probably a rather disgusting display of internal bleeding or something. Her finger twitched as she tried to blink away the blurred vision, gaining minute amounts of clarity the more she blinked.
The den-sized blur let out a pained shriek before dropping to the ground, the shade it temporarily offered now gone in favour of the hard mid-morning sun. Jayden squeezed her eyes shut – if she was going to die, it was going to be with her eyeballs in tact.
Soft crunching disrupted the on and off ringing in her ears before it stopped right in front of her. She cracked an eye open to see a humanoid blur shielding her face from the light.
The person moved to gently push some of Jayden's blood-matted hair off of her face as he – at least, Jayden assumed it was a he – knelt in front of her and tilted his head down towards the rest of her unresponsive body.
He leaned forward and ran his hand over something stiff behind her before muttering something under his breath and leaning back to probably see Jayden more clearly. All she could do in response was weakly grunt in some kind of approval for the man to just do something already.
She wasn't an idiot, she knew she was probably – most definitely – going to bleed out and die. It would be best if he just put her out of her misery now and jetted back to the tower from whence he came (unless he was a Rider, in that case Jayden mused that he'd have to glide back across No Man's Land – good luck with that).
“You're hurt.” He said as Jayden felt his palm lightly graze her cheek, “Let's go.”
A man of few words then – in fact he sounded oddly familiar. Chances are she was just suffering from a wayward bout of amnesia from the crash, but it was a shame her vision refused to co-operate enough to get a good look at the boy.
If anything it was just getting worse by the second.
All of a sudden her world veered to the right as she felt what she could only assume was the boy actually picking her up. Black spots started to litter her sight as the blurs just blended with each-other and shook around like a mad demon cub with it's dinner.
She mentally chuckled to herself as her vision went black – at least she didn't feel any pain any more. Maybe she severed a nerve?
The day seemed to quickly spill from the morning to the afternoon and finally into the dusk as Rikard watched over the small camp-site he had made for himself and Jayden, just barely half a mile into the Forbidden Wood.
Starting a fire barely took half an hour's work – all he needed was to find the wood, pile it up and a quick flare from his glider's jet was all the pile needed to set alight. He briefly wondered whether the fire would simply serve as a beacon to the Fae but he quickly shook the thought away as he made his way over to Jayden.
If the Fae wanted to find them, they wouldn't need a fire or a trail of smoke to light the way. The forest folk were rumoured to be tricky like that, if he were to believe what he was taught in the academy.
He crouched down in front of the woman and rested a hand over the shreds of his and her coats he'd used for bandages. Jayden's glider uniform was in tatters, the upwards arrow that stood proudly on ever glider's chest was nothing more than a blood-covered mess. If he were to be honest, he was surprised that the upper half of her uniform shirt was still salvageable.
Jayden was far from the most modest woman in Change, but he was sure she'd at least appreciate the coverage a little bit.
She mumbled something under her breath as she seemed to turn into Rikard's light caress, startling him enough to withdraw his hand. He shook his head and lowered it back into place, only this time running it across her forehead with the intend of finding the area where he had secured the make-shift bandage.
He grasped the cloth's edge before pulling it free, gently lifting up the dual-coloured-haired woman's head in order to safely remove it. Once he was done, he set it aside and gasped.
Apart from the dried blood sticking to her forehead and cheek, the wound over her right eye was almost completely gone. There was nothing more than three healed scars neatly decorating her face like an old battle scar.
He pursed his lips and lightly ran his fingers over the small rigid lines to make sure that they were real and, lo and behold, there was nothing unreal about them. They even felt like the scars of a veteran who had completed their five years conscription. To heal that fast was unheard of.
To heal that fast wasn't human.
Crickets chirping was the first noise Jayden heard as she came to, the noise doing nothing to soothe the aggravated headache that was growing with every little chirp.
“Ugh, shut the fuck up.” She grumbled, weakly holding one hand against one of her ears in an incredibly failed attempt to block anything out. In fact she only succeeded in lightly hitting herself in the head.
“You're awake.” A male voice muttered, prompting Jayden to try her damnedest to sit up straight.
She only succeeded in some horrible flailing and doubling over when she was finally up. Everywhere ached like she'd just done a thirty mile marathon with a speed demon on her tail the entire time. She groaned and buried her head in her arms.
“'Yay' for me. Got any pain killers? I could use a healing shot or ten.”
“No. Gliders are never packed with first aid kits.” He replied, followed by the sounds of a fire crackling loudly as if he'd just prodded at it.
She looked up and blinked in surprise – the last person she expected to see adjacent to her was Ricky. Then again she should have guessed from his talkative attitude. Rikard Seras wasn't exactly famous for his bubbly attitude and talkative demeanour, after all.
“Huh. Guess they really take that win or die thing pretty seriously then.” She snorted, leaning back to crack her back, “So – what the fuck happened? Last thing I remember I was yelling at Harry for some reason.” She groaned and tried to crack her neck, “Fuck, did a demon fucking barrel me over or something? I feel like I've got bruises upon bruises here – sure we don't even have one healing shot?”
Ricky shook his head.
“Damn.” She muttered, giving her wrists a good crack, “So why aren't we dead?”
“We survived the attack-”
“No, you dumbass – we're in the Forbidden Wood at night for fuck's sake. By every book in Change we should be Fae food by now.” She said, rolling her eyes for good measure, “Speaking of food – got anything to eat? I could eat a demon colony right now.”
Ricky simply shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly and prodded the fire again, clearly disgruntled about something. Jayden shook off the intention to ask as she stood and started doing some full-body stretches to try and ease the aching. If Rikard hadn't offered it by now, Jayden would just be barking at a tree for all it would matter.
Why did she have to get trapped out in the damned Forbidden Wood with the most boring person in their entire graduate class? Peachy.
“Well I'm starving.” She declared after finishing her stretches, cracking her knuckles as she picked up one of the longer sticks on the fire as a torch, “Try not to become Fae food while I'm getting us human food, 'kay? Good.” She rolled her eyes when she received no response and took off into the trees, “Be back soon.”
A twig snapped under the sole of her boot as she ducked behind a bush with her torch, watching a lone four legged animal meander it's way into the small clearing she had just come across.
It had long pointed ears and bounced with every step, though it's fangs and spiked tail made it a little ridiculous to look at. For the life of her, Jayden couldn't remember what the thing was called, but who cared anyway? It was called dinner as far as she was concerned.
She waited until the little bouncing creature was in the middle of the clearing before pouncing on the creature and snapping it's neck in one quick shot. She grinned in triumph as she picked up it's corpse with both hands before the light in the clearly went out.
She grimaced and turned to look at the now-useless torch lying on the damp leaf litter in her excitement. Damn, she should have thought ahead with that. Oh well, at least she had food.
As she walked in what she assumed was the direction of Rikard's little camp-site, little noises began to fill in the silence the torch's tiny crackling no longer filled. Crickets, whispers, wind and who knows what else lurked about in the dark.
She startled when she stepped on a twig, it's sharp noise echoing somewhat in the dark woods.
Speaking of which – where the hell was she?
Coming to a halt in a small clearing lit by the moon, she turned and looking in every direction around her apprehensively only to find ten different shades of darkness and, more importantly, no traces of a fire.
She absent-mindedly rubbed her shoulder when the idea of climbing a tree passed through her mind briefly. As if – not tripping over at the moment was challenge enough. If she made it up a tree she sure as hell wasn't coming back down if her muscles had anything to say about it.
“Shit.” She muttered, squinting in hopes of finding a light in the distance- “There!”
She grinned as she took off in the direction of what looked like some kind of small white light or something which could only be Ricky's bonfire. Her grin stayed on her face for the majority of the trek until she realised that she wasn't heading towards Ricky's camp at all.
She slowed down to a stop in front of the floating, glowing ball of fluorescent energy and sighed. It was nothing but some stupid Fae prank then. And she fell for it too. Great.
Now she was well and truly lost.
“Lost indeed.” A smooth voice hummed from all directions, the sound feeling like it was zooming past from several angles all at the same time. It was a little eerie.
“'Who's there?' she asks.” The voice responds with a chuckle, “No one, no one's there, I'm everywhere.”
Jayden rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, I noticed that – who are you?” She folded her arms, the dead creature hanging limply in her grip, “And no bullshit either – I want a name.”
“Oh, she's a feisty one isn't she?” He (she could only assume it was a he) chuckled, “Let's make a deal, feisty one. Answer me a riddle and I'll give you my name.”
She sighed through her nostrils, blowing a chunk of her blood-matted black fringe out of her face.
“No need to be so glum about it.” The voice chuckled again, practically caressing her ears with his voice, “Alright. To give me to someone of whom I don't belong to is cowardice, but to take me as your own is noble. I am a game that many like to play, but I have no winners. What am I?”
She furrowed her brow as she tried to think over the riddle the voice presented her. To give it to someone was cowardly but to take it was admirable... A game that people play but it has no winners... To give it to someone... but to take it... Her face lit up as it hit her and she couldn't help but laugh out loud.
“Of course. Blame – you're blame.” She grinned, showing off all of her teeth as if she had just won a year off of her conscription in the lottery.
The voice made an amused noise.
“Correct, feisty one.” He said, “I am called Aiierynn.”
“Aiierynn? I've heard that name before-” The memory of that odd voice in her head, telling her to send 'Aiierynn' it's regards, “Yeah, some hallucination said it this morning. Something like 'Send Aiierynn my regards' or something like that.”
The voice fell silent.
“You still there?” She pushed after the silence had seemed to run on too long. In fact she was honestly starting to doubt that the voice was still around – maybe the Fae got skittish when Jayden turned the tables on it or something. A book she had read in the academy had said something about Fae being very controlling creatures – not fond of losing the upper hand, or something like that.
She switched hands with the creature carcass as she grew a little uneasy. She was really starting to regret not paying an awful lot of attention in her creature theory classes. Having a decent know-how of different Fae might have actually helped right now.
“Hello?” She asked again before shrugging to herself and making to turn and leave in the direction she came.
Jayden will take the fact she may have shrieked to the grave.
“Fuck! Don't do that!” She gasped, spinning around with her free hand over her thumping heart.
It took her a moment for her vision to adjust properly but when it did she couldn't help but gawk. Standing front of her was what could only be described as a very gorgeous man. Long straight hair, a young handsome face, chiselled abs completely on display and some kind of thin, white toga-like dress was the only thing the man wore. His ears were pointed and very elongated and he had a few different tribal looking tattoos on his wrists and ankles – if anything, he almost looking completely human.
There was only one thing that completely and totally shattered that observation.
“You're blue.” Jayden blurted out. And it was true – from his hair to his fingers nails, he was like a black and white photo coloured blue. Light blue skin, medium blue hair, matching eyes. She was completely willing to bet that if he was cut, he would bleed blue too.
It was a little unnerving, if she were to be honest.
“Astute observation, would you like a medal?” He snorted, rolling his eyes as he folded his arms, “I haven't had the opportunity to practice my human form in some time – it's not often I find a stray in the woods.” He took a step forward, closing the proximity between the two, “Then again, something tells me you're not entirely human, are you?”
She raised an eyebrow.
“I'm as human as they get.” She snorted, “The hair's a deformity.”
“One third black, two thirds red – I won't lie, your hair is stunning.” He smiled, but she couldn't help but feel there was nothing genuine about it, “But I didn't waste my energy to talk about your hair, feisty one. No – what I want to know is why an Elythmm not only spoke to you, but sent you to me of all forest folk. Did you piss it off?”
“Elythmm. I suppose you humans would be more primitive in your terms – an Elythmm is one of the mountain dwellers.” He pushed some of his blue hair behind his pointy ear, “They're very large and have big horns-”
“Oh, mountain demons.” She said, “One killed my friend so I attacked it. It held me down, I hallucinated and next thing I knew I woke up in the middle of the Forbidden Wood covered in a bunch of little scars.” She gestured towards the remains of what used to be a very comfortable glider's uniform, “As far as I see it, it pissed me off.”
“Elythmm aren't exactly know for their tact.” He conceded, “The less I have to deal with them the better – stupid beasts, the lot of them.”
Aiierynn shook his head lightly before he took another step forward, looking Jayden directly in the eye. She refrained from gulping as she took a small step back. Blue or not, his 'human form' was still almost an entire foot taller than her – she'd be intimidated even if he was an actual human.
“Now we're getting off topic and that just won't do.” He smiled, cold as ever, and stepped forward once more, trapping Jayden against the back of a tree, “If there's one thing the Elythmm are good at, it's knowing the different between a friend and a foe. Their noses are paramount amongst every breed of their wretched species.” He trapped her with his hands, leaning forward so that they were face to face – she gulped, “I will trust an Elythmm's nose more than anything that could possibly come out of your mouth, feisty one. You're not human, or you would be dead.”
He smiled again before he backed off, finally giving Jayden a little space to breathe. Hasn't the fae ever heard of personal space?
“But you're obviously not Fae either, or the humans would have disposed of you long ago. I'm no stranger to the inner workings of your colony – your species is, at the very least, good at keeping things out if need be.” He mused as he started to pace in front of her, “Essentially, I find you interesting, feisty one. Not human, not Fae – very interesting.” He paused and looked her straight in the eye, his grin turning mischievous, “Well, since the Elythmm clearly went out of their way to ensure we met on this night, I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.” He chuckled, “Let's make a deal, you and I.”
“What kind of deal?” She asked, trying to discreetly look around for some kind of exit.
She internally screamed in frustration – it was literally nothing but trees in every direction. She wasn't going to last the night if she took off. It would be smarter to bargain her way into getting this fae to be her guy. To sell her soul or something.
She wasn't exactly privy on the whole 'deals with the forest folk' thing – she outright skipped that class.
“You will let me study you, feisty one, and you will let me find out what exactly you are. I have some theories, but I most definitely won't be satisfied until I have some fact.” Aiierynn grinned, his sharp teeth glinting in the moonlight.
“What's in it for me?” She narrowed her eyes.
“What do you desire?” He shot back, raising an eyebrow teasingly.
He was probably expecting her to say the usual bullshit an idiot would in this situation. 'Let me be immortal', 'make me rich', 'make me this', 'make me that' – from what she had heard in Change, a lot of people were downright idiots when offered the chance to make a deal with a fae.
She steeled herself and looked Aiierynn right in the eye. She was going to be smart about this.
“Survival.” She said, matching his raised eyebrow with her own, “For me and my friend, Rikard. Take us home – unharmed – and on the way you can do whatever you need to to answer your curiosity.”
“There's another human in the forest?” He piqued up, looking around as if Ricky would just pop out from behind a tree somewhere, “Fascinating.” He returned his gaze to her almost enthusiastically, “You drive a hard bargain, feisty one, but I accept. In exchange for the safe return to your human city I will be allowed to study you both.”
If Jayden were to be honest, Aiierynn seriously looked only one step away from twirling around in some kind of mad childish glee. It was both pitiful and endearing to watch.
“Good. Then it's done.” Well, she hoped it was – she had no idea how these things worked.
“No, not yet. We have to seal the deal – give me your hand, feisty one.” Damn.
She offered him her arm with no protest and he took hold of it, his blue skin an interesting contrast against her pale white. In a decent lighting, it would probably look really interesting if she were to be honest, but in the dark she had to squint to even see their hands, let alone really tell the difference.
He seemed to search her arm from something before his fingers stopped right over her artery. Without warning, he pierced the skin with his fingernails.
“Ow- fuck!” She yelped, trying and failing to pull her hand back, “The fuck are you doing?”
“Sealing our deal, be still.” He responded with a shrug, repeating the motion on his own wrist before laying the wounds over each-other, their blood mixing together in the form of some blood bond or something.
It was too dark to be able to tell if he bled red or blue. Damn.
“This is fucking creepy.” She grunted when he finally let her take her hand back. She licked her thumb and scrubbed the drying blood away before it could cause more problems than it was worth, wiping the excess onto her ruined shirt.
She put the small puncture to her mouth and held her tongue to the wound before pulling her wrist back. She couldn't help but gawk somewhat at the sight that greeted her.
The wound had, all of a sudden, become nothing more than a faded scar. What the hell?
“Convenient, isn't it?” Aiierynn chuckled, clearly noticing her distress, “Now that that's all done, I will meet you and your friend at dawn to begin our journey.”
“Wait, how do I get back?” She asked, looking up from her wrist to find herself alone.
“Aiierynn!” She shouted, looking around her in the hopes of seeing the blue-skinned Fae. After a few moments she gave up with a heavy sigh – clearly he expected her to find her way back on her own or something.
She heaved a loud sigh before turning to head back in the direction she came from only to see a series of small light blue lights fading into the distance in front of her, about twenty to thirty feet separating each one. Pursing her lips, she tried to look around in hopes of some kind of inspiration before resigning to the fact that maybe this was Aiierynn's way of helping her make it back to camp.
Or it was nothing more than a Fae trick and she was going to die.
She looked at the little scar on her wrist and sighed. There was really only one way to find out.