First chapter of new book I'm working on, Coil Wars. Will gift 200 for useful reviews :)
CHAPTER 1:1 - SKIE
It was all that was on the humans' minds that day. I knew it as well as I knew my own name. But it was on no-one's mind more than mine, for I was the one scheduled to die.
I guess I'm getting ahead of myself. My name's Skie Nile. I'm nine.
And I'm a Summoner.
Three weeks previously, I'd been living in the house I live in with my older brother, Aceer, on our homeworld of Liden. Most of our kind live in camps within the planets forest, but because of my brother's station, we have more money than most. But I'd got bored while he was away, and gone for a walk in town.
And walked straight into a trap set by rouge bounty hunters.
An ordinary bounty hunter was bad enough. They hunted across Nagita for any inhuman 'illegal immigrants', and sold them to the Council. They don't care that those they capture will be executed - they just care about the money. But rouge's are worse - they deliberately go onto other planets hunting targets. They capture innocents, like me, and sneak us onto Nagita, then sell us under the ruse of finding us on the planet.
The Council know it happens, but they just don't care. All they care about is keeping the human populace entertained with executions. Even when the ones they're executing are innocent nine year olds.
And so it was with me. I'd be kidnapped, bound, gagged, and stuffed into a tiny container. Then the rouges' had shipped me onto Nagita, snuck me in, and sold me over to the Council.
Thus, weeks later, I was about to be killed for no crime. All for the entertainment of the humans.
The truck I was in pulled to a halt, and my heart began to plummet. A moment later, the doors opened, and a human male stood before me, leering.
"Come on, pretty. The reaper's waiting for ya."
My anger pulsed then, and I tried with all my might to summon my Shadow, Anna. But the drugs that had been used on my supressed my abilities, and made my efforts meaningless.
Not willing to wait, the man reached in and grabbed a length of my long blonde curls, which were caked with dirt from my time in the human prison. Screaming in pain, I kicked out at him, but he held me at arm's length, where my short stature proved my enemy, for I couldn't reach. Furious, I continued to try my best to escape, even as he dragged me along by the hair. I was thin, but my anger gave me strength, and he stumbled a couple of times before he called two more humans to help subdue me. In the end, I knew I had no chance to win, and broke down, tears streaming from my ice-blue eyes, flowing across my cute features.
It didn't take long for them to reach the arena. It was a massive place, built in the style of ancient coliseums from Earth. Thousands of humans sat in the surrounding tiers, held back only by an energy barrier intended to keep inhumans from attempting escape. The countless people, men and women both, sneered and yelled down towards me as I was dragged towards the stand in the centre. They called me countless names, bellowed to see me killed.
All I could do was cry.
I was finally dragged before the stand, and yanked by my captors up the stairs. There, they bound my wrists and ankles, and forced a gag into my mouth. Clearly, they didn't want me trying to escape or arguing while they went through the charade of a trial.
A man stepped up onto the platform, and read out the false charges against me. No one raised any objections - not that I thought they would - so the man declared me guilty, and sentenced me to death by hanging.
The noose I'd been trying to ignore look all the closer as he uttered the words.
Ignoring my struggles, the men lifted me up, and took me over the noose. After adjusting its height, they wrapped the rope around my neck, and stepped back. I didn't struggle - knowing that if I did, I'd just end up dead faster.
Dread filled my heart as I stood there. There were only five people on the platform now - me, the three who had dragged me there, and a fourth, silent figure. One of the three, the one who had opened the van, was watching me closely with a grin, so full of anticipation I wished I could rip his moustache off his face to pain him. A second man, one of his compatriots, was checking the rope to make sure it was tight enough, his bald head glinting in the sunlight. The third stood by the lever that would slide back the wood beneath me, dropping me to my death while his oddly blank eyes watched on.
The fourth man did nothing, and showed no emotion. The left half of his face was hidden behind an intricate silver mask, with beautiful flame-like designs across its surface. I found his behaviour the strangest - never before had I seen a human so impassive at an execution. They were always so joyful.
The bald man stepped away, nodding his confirmation at the rope's tightness. The blank-eyed figure nodded, a grim smile crossing his lips as his hands wrapped around the lever.
I closed my eyes as he prepared to pull, a single thought crossing my mind.
Then I heard bone crack.
For a moment I thought I was dead, but then realised I hadn't dropped, and still had my feet on soldi ground. Opening my eyes again, I looked for the source of the noise.
I almost threw up when I realised that the blank-eyed man was lying by my feet, his head little more than a pile of scraps. The sound must have been his skull as it imploded.
Before me, the masked figure was engaged in combat with the remaining two men. He had drawn a sword, and was parrying attacks from the humans' own blades with skill beyond the ordinary. Before I could even fully make sense of what I was seeing, the bald figure dropped as a dagger appeared from nowhere, burying itself in his back. He was already dropping even as a female stepped out of thin air, a second dagger in her left hand.
The masked male grabbed the shocked moustache man by the neck, and threw him off the platform before glancing towards the female.
"Get the girl," he told her, to which she nodded, even as he leapt off the platform after his dazed victim. The female hurried to my side, and used her dagger to cut the rope from around my neck.
"What's going on?" I found the energy to ask, but she just shook her head in answer.
"Not now." She swooped down and picked me up in her arms, then glanced towards her companion. The masked man was engaged in a bitter swordfight with his opponent, and for a moment it seemed as if the two were equally matched. But then the masked figure ducked under a swing and lashed out, cutting through the moustached man like laser through wood.
Flicking his sword to get some of the blood off, he glanced up towards the outraged, screaming crowd. Ironically, the very energy barrier meant to prevent escape was aiding ours now, for the humans beyond it couldn't get at us. A smile crossed his face, and he made a two-fingered salute in their direction.
The female was already running towards the tunnel I had been brought down originally, and the male was close behind. We were moving quickly, though I had no idea as to where.
After several minutes, we stopped by a seemingly random expanse of tunnel wall. The man glanced around, then pressed his hand to the wall. To my surprise, the section slid back in on itself, revealing a small, new tunnel.
"Go through, quickly," he said, turning to me. I nodded, and climbed in - anywhere was better than on the gallows. I had no idea who they were, but if they weren't with the humans, then they were my allies. At least for the time being.
Once all three of us were within the tunnel, the man reached back and slid the cover back into place. There was little room, and we were forced to move through it single file. We walked silently for what seemed like hours, but was more like minutes when I looked back on the moment later.
Eventually, I came across a door, and pushed it open after a nod from the female. Entering, I was shocked to find myself standing in the entrance hall to a house.
Once the man had shut the door behind us, locking and bolting it, he led us into the living room. It was a surprisingly well decorated place, with lots of ornate furniture and dor in various shades of red and violet. Looking down at the knee-length white dress I'd been stuck in ever since my capture - now dirty, ragged and torn beyond repair - I felt horribly out of place in such a clean room.
"Take a seat, and I'll bring out some tea and biscuits," the female smiled warmly at me "you okay with tea, or do you want something else?"
"Tea's fine," I answered a little absently, taking a seat in a plush chair. It took all my energy to avoid falling asleep in it, for after three weeks of imprisonment and being treat like dirt, it was sheer heaven.
As the female headed out the room, presumably towards the kitchen, the male went over to the mantelpiece and removed the mask. As he did so, I studied him curiously. He was tall and slim, with little visible muscle, but I knew from the fight that he had incredible strength and agility. His clothes were entirely black, consisting of plain jeans, a shirt, and boots. At the edge of his shirt's neckline, I saw a glimpse of white, which appeared to be a bandage wrapped around his right shoulder. As he turned back to face me, I couldn't help but notice that he was extraordinarily handsome, with bright, lime green eyes and long black hair that hung to his shoulders. Without the mask, it was clear to me he couldn't be any older than nineteen.
"Are you alright?" he asked me. I just nodded weakly.
"A bit worse for the wear after three weeks in jail, but alive. Thanks to you."
"It was our pleasure," he smiled, coming to sit opposite me, on a long couch that could have held four people easily. Then his expression grew more serious. "But I need to know how badly you're hurt. I know how the humans treat their prisoners, and I know that at least one incident in particular happened to you the other week."
"Wait..." I half-gasped "it was you... you who saved me from..."
I just stared at him for a long moment. The previous week, a human had come into my cell and started tormenting me. He had actually gone as far as attempting to remove my dress, but another guard had intervened. The two had gotten into an argument, after which the second guard had broken the first's neck. The incident had been strange, but I hadn't recalled it until now. Like he had when he'd rescued me this time, he had been wearing a mask then, a different one, so I hadn't made the connection.
"Then I owe you twice over," I finally said.
"You owe nothing. I only did what anyone with the ability and morals to would have."
"Don't expect me to forget it," I countered "not after all you've done."
He let that slide, shrugging slightly. The door behind him opened, and the female returned, setting a tray of tea and cookies upon the table. From them rose a mouth-watering aroma, and I could tell that the cookies were fresh from the oven. I hoped it only felt like I was drooling, but judging from the man's amused expression, I doubted it.
"Help yourself," the female chuckled "I doubt the humans fed you properly."
I mumbled a brief thanks, then half-dived for a cookie, making the two laugh again. For the next ten minutes, I ate and drank with the sort of speed that Aceer would have told me off for in company. However, under the circumstances, I was too hungry to care.
When I was finally full, I leant back in the chair. The female exchanged looks with the male, who nodded, and she rose from where she was sat beside him. She came over to the side of my chair and knelt beside it.
"Do you mind if I check you for injuries? I just want to make sure that they haven't done you any permanent damage."
"Alright," I agreed after a moment. She began to examine me carefully, pausing when she located a particularly nasty-looking bruise or cut. When she had to raise my dress to get a look beneath it, the male turned his gaze away discreetly.
Finally, the female seemed satisfied, and returned to her place beside the male.
"She'll be fine after some rest," she confirmed "though I'd like to get some of those cuts cleaned as soon as possible, before they get infected."
"Then you can do so shortly," the man nodded, then turned back to me "but first, I'm willing to bet you want answers."
"Yes," I nodded "I really do. I mean, I'm grateful to you both for all the help. But why? Why are you helping me? Humans don't help the inhumans. Never."
"No, they don't," the man agreed, leaning back in his seat "but then we aren't humans."
"You look human. And since I haven't seen a hint of magic from either of you, nor any sign of a Shadow being summoned, you aren't a mage or Summoner. No wings means not an angel. I don't get the werewolf vibe off either of you. Since you're male, you can't be a vampire. And clearly neither of you are demons."
"Then what's the remaining option?" the man asked quietly, his eyes fixed upon my face with an unusual intentness. I started to tell him there wasn't another option, but then it came to me.
I felt like I'd been hit in the head with a tonne of bricks.
"You can't be... Eternals..." I whispered. He nodded.
"But the Eternals are allied with the humans."
"Correct," the man nodded, glancing towards his companion briefly "but we're a special case. Her name is Chloe Hada. And mine is James Ark."