Lance's eyes fluttered open slowly in the dim light of his cell. As he tried moving, he realized that his arms, legs, neck, and torso were strapped to a strange device. He also noticed that he was naked and when he tried to move his head, it felt as though someone had taken an ax to his skull. Closing his eyes, he remained still for a few seconds as the pain passed. When it finally passed, he opened his eyes again.
After a few more moments and quite a bit of wiggling, he found that he was able to use his strength to free himself. Pulling at the straps on his arms, he managed to get them off of him. Once they were off, he managed to fully free himself. After the last strap was removed, he dropped to the ground and darted for the door, or rather he tried to dart for the door. His muscles refused to listen to him for a few seconds as they re-accustomed themselves to supporting his weight. Eventually, he was able to regain his footing and walk slowly to the door, so as not to trigger another brief attack. Right as his hand touched the knob, two things occurred to him. One, he could hear guards walking around outside the door, and two, he had absolutely no idea where he was.
"This is going to be a bit harder than I thought," he said to himself, pulling the door open and peeking out.
Glancing around, and seeing no guards, he darted down the hall. Amazingly, his body didn't try to give out on him again. That, in and of itself, was a miracle, and after a few more moments, he got another miracle. Spotting a plain looking door, he quickly moved over to it, pulling it open as he got closer. Slipping into the room, he found several racks of clothing. Smirking slightly, he walked up and grabbed a red t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans. Pulling the jeans on first, he saw a light blue dragon stitched into the side of the left leg. Reaching down to touch it, he saw a strange pattern on his hand. Lifting his hand, Lance watched as the strange tribal like pattern shifted as he moved. Flipping his hand over, he saw that it was only on the top of his hand. Sighing softly, he reached for the shirt and saw a brief flash of silver in the dim light. Turning, still holding the shirt, he came face to face with his own reflection. Blue eyes widened upon seeing the tribal pattern, unmoving this time, on his upper arms, across his chest, over his shoulders, down his back, and on the left side of his face. It was not something he ever remembered having before. Then again, his memory was a little foggy right now. Shaking his head, he pulled the red shirt on and stepped away from the mirror.
"Today just keeps getting stranger and stranger..." he mumbled to himself, looking around the room again.
A shout from beyond the door caused Lance to freeze and look at the door. Apparently, his escape had been discovered. Time to go. Looking around frantically, he searched for some kind of weapon. Suddenly, a gut wrenching pain tore through his entire body. With his hands clasped over his chest, the redhead doubled over with a barely suppressed cry of pain. After only a second, the pain passed and he was able to stand up straight again. When he did, a long, blue, steel blade rested in his left hand. It resembled a scimitar, but it was flipped over. Swinging it experimentally, he found that the blade was light as air.
Wonderful... This will totally help me out, especially since the guards probably all have some kind of weapon themselves,” Lance thought as he swung the blade again. “I still need supplies and something to carry them in.
Stepping slowly toward the door, his foot came into contact with something that was both solid and soft at the same time. Looking down, he was a little surprised to see a mid-sized backpack sitting on the floor. Reaching down, he picked up the plain black pack, un-zipping the top as he did so. Peering in, he found both medical supplies and food. Both amounts of supplies were limited, only about three days’ worth. Just as he was about to go through the supplies, a guard passed before the door. Lance stayed put until the footsteps passed. It looked like time was running out.
Without hesitation, he swung the bag over his shoulder and left the room as quickly and quietly as possible. Peering around the corners as he went, his brief suspicion that the guards were looking for him were confirmed. Despite how careful he was being, one of the guards spotted him as he rounded the corner. The big, burly man stepped forward, drawing his weapon as he did. It looked like it was a cross between a long sword and a rapier. The black blade glinted dangerously in the light, but the weapon itself seemed unsuited to the man wielding it.
“Well, looks like it is my lucky day,” he said with a thick accent. “I just found a little mouse that needs to go back into its cage.”
“You know something? I don’t really feel like going back into a cage,” Lance replied, allowing the backpack to slide to the floor beside him.
The man smirked and moved closer to Lance, ignoring the redhead’s words, as the teen braced himself for the oncoming attack. They stared at each other for a few moments before the guard threw himself at the teen. Lance’s muscles moved on their own, bringing his sword up in a flashing arc. The sudden attack stopped the man dead in his tracks and he stood there for a moment. Then a long deep red line opened quickly on his chest, blood suddenly exploding from the wound.
He fell over with a thud, blood pooling rapidly around his body. Lance stared at the long blade in his hands. Despite the blood that dripped slowly from the tip, the blade itself was still strangely beautiful. It seemed to be pulling him toward his fallen opponent’s blade, as if telling him to pick it up. Once his body got over the shock of killing someone, he reached out and slowly pried the rapier-like blade from the slowly stiffening, beefy fingers. As soon as his fingers wrapped fully around the hilt of the new blade, a soft voice appeared in his head.
“Thank you, kind sir. Finally, I am free of that God-awful man. Now, if you want, to show my gratitude I can show you the way out. That is, unless you have something else in mind,” the soft voice said, sounding slightly unsure of itself.
“Who are you? What is going on here? Where the hell am I anyway?” the young man asked, feeling not only confused, but a little scared of the sword he was holding.
“Worry not, young Master. I will try my best to explain everything to you, but first, we must get out of here. First, we must go down this hallway and then take a right. Oh, and if I may be so bold as to say, don’t forget your bag, sir,” the voice said in a soothing way. “My name is Rail, by the way. I am a spirit that possesses this blade.”
Lance turned, looking a little dumbfounded, and reached down to pick up his backpack. Holding Rail in his right hand and the other blade in his left, he looked between the two of them. The redhead might not have known a whole lot about his past, but he did know that he was left-handed for sure. Almost without even thinking about it, he wished there was something he could do so that he could keep both blades but have Rail close at hand for his directions. As if sensing his dilemma, the strange scimitar- like blade pulsed once and began to shrink, curling itself around his left wrist as it did so. Smirking slightly, he lightly flipped Rail into his left hand before heading off down the hallway.
Rounding the corner, Rail spoke up again with more directions. This time, however, they were accompanied with a warning. Apparently, the guard they killed first was part of a team of three men. They had separated to try covering more ground in the search for their little escaped prisoner. Lance and Rail were now on an almost crash course with the pair and there was nothing they could do about it.
Keeping a steady pace, Lance was able to take the guards by surprise and cut one down before he could even draw his weapon. The other man was able to draw his sword but was unable to get in a hit before Lance killed him too. Giving both corpses a sad look, the redhead took off down the hall again. Even after running into the small group, they ran into several more small groups of guards.
Growling, the redhead swung out with Rail. The black blade hummed as it sliced through the air, leaving destruction in its wake. After taking out the third small group, they came across a great wall of a man. He stood at roughly six or seven feet tall and was all muscle. Grinning, the man hoisted a large broadsword onto his shoulder. Gritting his teeth, Lance let his backpack slide to the ground as he slid into a defensive stance.
“Well, well, well. Look what we have here. It’s the little mouse who escaped his hole,” the man said darkly as he shifted his grip on the sword.
Lance didn’t dignify the man with a response. He just called the other blade to his hand and changed positions. They stood there staring at each other for a few seconds before the big man lunged forward with a roar. Spinning out of the way, the redhead struck out with Rail. The burly man dodged the attack and lashed out with his own blade. Lance twisted to the side but the heavy blade bit deep into his chest and side as he moved. Suppressing a gasp of pain, the redhead feinted to the right, switching at the last moment to catch the man across the throat. Blood poured from the wound like a waterfall as the man fell over.
The redhead stood there for another few seconds before he finally reached out and picked up his backpack. Stumbling toward the exit, Lance willed the blue reverse scimitar to return to its previous place around his wrist. Even as the blade coiled around his arm, the teen felt several other people behind him. He glanced over his shoulder only once before he broke into a limping run. Rail was silent as they left the large building except for giving Lance directions to a safer spot.
They took shelter in a small grove of trees just beyond the fenced perimeter of the bizarre facility. How he had gotten over the ten foot fence was beyond him, but his mind wasn’t really in a state to question what happened exactly. Rail noticed that as they ran, the wound in the redhead’s chest and side only seemed to bleed more as they continued moving. That alone was worrying to the spirit, but it was even more worrying that Lance seemed to be pushing himself to the extreme. Glancing around, the spirit was a little surprised to recognize the area they were in. Just a couple miles away was the capital city of the Luminia Province, Starhawk. Too bad he didn’t have access to his body anymore. It would have been very helpful right now.
“Master! Come on! We have to keep moving. There is no time to stop now. You need help and the city is really close to us. We need to get you there,” Rail said sounding very worried as Lance collapsed onto his knees.
“I would---if I could---Rail. As it is------I am barely managing to stay upright. -----There is no way--------that I can run or even-----walk for that matter.” Lance looked around from his position on the ground, looking for all the world like he was going to fall over at any second.
Rail felt totally helpless as the teen braced himself upright with a stiff arm. There was next to nothing that he could do for the bleeding teen. Suddenly, he remembered something that a friend of his had told him; a possessing spirit was able to let go of their object if their master was in grave danger. Calming himself down, he relaxed enough to be able to let go of his sword. As soon as he was free, he took off- flying as fast as his incorporeal body could go. After only a few seconds, Starhawk was sprawled out before him and he paused long enough to get his second wind before taking off into the city.
Upon arriving in the city, he looked around for the one person that could possibly help him now. He was looking for his longtime friend, Saluka Meiya, a young Monel. She had been studying medicine for the past several years and was also the only one Rail trusted to take care of Lance. The search lasted for about five minutes before he found her, sitting alone in the library with her nose buried in a thick medical journal. As he rushed over to her, she looked up. One of the side effects of being a possessing spirit was that only chosen people could see him and right now, Saluka was the only person who could. The young woman managed to not draw attention to herself as Rail explained everything to her.
With a quick nod at the distressed spirit, she packed up her bags and moved for the door. The librarian thanked her as she walked past, waving good-bye as she did so. Once she was out on the street, the young Monel took off running. Rail flew on ahead of her, drifting just inside her line of sight. Soon, the pair was out in the small grove of trees. With a silent agreement, they split up to look for the injured teen. Eventually, it was Rail who found his injured master.
“Saluka! I found him!” he shouted, dropping down beside the teen. “Please hurry! I don’t know how much longer he can hold on!”
“I’m coming, Rail! It’s just really hard to get past all the underbrush without a weapon,” was her response followed by quite a bit of crashing and soft curses.
At the sound of her unfamiliar voice, Lance somehow found the strength to tense up slightly. In a vain attempt to try and see who the newcomer was, he tried to lift his head, even though it felt like a ton of bricks. When Saluka finally came crashing into the clearing, she gasped at the scene before her, her face a mask of complete and utter horror.
Blood had pooled around his immobile body and soaked into his already red shirt, staining the fabric an even deeper red. Even his blue pants were slowly being dyed a deep red color. With all of the blood all over the place the wound looked to be a lot worse than it probably really was. Quick as lightning, she was at his side, immediately trying to assess the situation. As soon as one of her hands came to rest on his shoulder, the redhead managed to gather enough strength to turn and look at her.
Saluka paused for a moment, just looking at his face. His long red bangs had fallen away from his face when he turned to look at her. Deep blue eyes gave her an almost listless look that she attributed to the blood loss. She had a sneaking suspicion that if he were not in such a weakened state, his eyes would’ve been able to pierce straight down to one’s soul, even someone who had many masks put in place. Then she saw something totally surprising; his ears were round, not pointed. That could only mean that he was a human. Humans were incredibly rare in The Outside. As of right now, there was only one known human currently in The Outside. Shaking her head quickly, Saluka tried to refocus on the task at hand.
Meanwhile, Lance looked at Saluka, feeling both a little wary and also totally safe. Rail had brought her here so he must trust her to some extent. That was good enough for the injured teen. At least for now anyway. Thoughts like that aside, he took a slightly closer look at the young woman in front of him. She was kind of cute, in a strange sort of way. That was the last thing on his mind before he passed out. As his arm collapsed out from under him, he was a little surprised to see the girl reach for him before the world faded to black. He didn’t even know if he hit the ground before he was gone.
“Rail! Gather his things and then return to your blade. I need to get him back to my house so I can treat his wound,” Saluka said, attempting to pull the teen closer.
“Alright, but how are you going to get him home? Are you going to just drag him through the streets of Starhawk? People will ask you a lot of questions,” Rail said floating over to the black backpack and picking it up.
“Sort of. I was actually hoping that I could convince someone passing down the road into the city to give us a ride. It has worked for me in the past,” she replied, pulling the teen’s arm over her shoulder and standing up.
“I hope it works, for both of your sakes. Good luck getting back into the city. If you need me you only have to ask and I’ll be there.”
With that, Rail returned to the blade and was silent.
“Thanks, Rail. I’m going to need all the luck I can get because this is not going to be very easy,” she said picking up the pack and Rail in one smooth motion, swinging one of the straps over her free shoulder.
Surprisingly, the pack was not as heavy as she thought. It was actually quite light. That meant that there was either nothing in it at all or that it was one of those backpacks that was able to shrink and decrease the weight of everything that was put into it. Either way, it was still a little surprising to say the least. Shaking her head, she staggered in the direction of the road, attempting to look really battered and bruised. The fact that the redheaded teen was a total dead weight on her shoulder helped a bit. That and the fact that she had seen many people walking around the school she attended covered in bruises also helped her out.
Upon reaching the road, she sank slowly to the ground to wait for someone to pass by. The teen on her back, as time passed, seemed to constantly get heavier to her and she was really starting to hope that someone was going to come by soon. Then, as if some otherworldly force had heard her silent prayer, an ornate carriage rounded the bend. At first, the driver ignored them, but when his passenger called out for him to stop, he did. Dropping down, the man walked over to the pair on the side of the road, having recognized the young Monel.
A shadow fell across Saluka’s face and she looked up. At first, she was completely grateful to whomever it was, but as soon as she saw the face, her heart sank. It was Birch Sunleaf, her ex-boyfriend. They’d had a slightly messy breakup and she knew he was still sore about it. He stood in front of her for a moment, his eyes unreadable, before he noticed that she had someone with her. Kneeling down, he examined the teen on her shoulder slowly. He looked to be in pretty bad shape, even to an untrained eye.
“Get up, Saluka. I’ll get him into the carriage so I can take you home,” he said, reaching out to transfer the teen from her shoulder to his.
“Thank you, Birch. How can I ever repay you?” she asked in a slight falsetto, already knowing and dreading the answer.
“Well, you can give me a kiss. One like we shared when we were together.” Birch replied with a sly smile and a seductive wink.
“Very well, but can it wait until I’ve treated him? He doesn’t have too much time left and I would like to save him.”
What he didn’t know was that she was just vying for time. She really had no intention of kissing him ever again, to be brutally honest. Too bad she knew that though Birch would wait, he wouldn’t wait forever. Perhaps, if she took her time in bandaging the teen’s wound, he would just leave and forget about his kiss.
“It can wait, Saluka. I still remember when you once told me that the injured were your first priority. I can wait,” Birch said with what he thought was a gentlemanly bow.
Nodding, Saluka got up, pulling the black pack with her. As Birch stood, she stepped over to the carriage and put the pack on the floor boards before going back to help the struggling man. It was obvious that he wasn’t used to lifting such heavy things as people. Once they got him into the carriage, Saluka crouched on the floor and checked his breathing and heart rate. Both were slow and labored, causing the woman to frown. They needed to get him home as soon as possible or there was a chance that he wasn’t going to make it. Biting her lip, Saluka pondered this idea but found that her mind rejected it almost immediately. Despite having only just met the teen, she felt some kind of connection to him. She refused to let him die before she found out where it came from.
As the trip progressed, the atmosphere in the carriage continued to become tenser as Saluka refused to speak to Birch even though he was sitting right across from her. After maybe five more minutes of tense silence, they arrived at Saluka’s house. It was a beautiful place. The house had three gardens and a large courtyard in the middle of the sprawling complex. Her parents had been some of the wealthiest people in Luminia, so her house had it all. Once the carriage stopped, several servants scurried out of the house.
They gathered around the ornate carriage and helped lift the injured teen from within. At a quick word from the lady of the house, they carried him up to her room. Saluka ran ahead of them to open the large door to her room, directing the servants to place Lance on her bed. Once the servants set him down, she ordered one of them to get her a bowl of warm water and a cloth so that she could clean his wound. She then ordered another servant to get her medical bag from her study. Both servants bowed before leaving the room. The others filed out after them as soon as they were dismissed.
Once both the requested items were brought to her, she proceeded to pull the blood stained shirt from his body. As she did, she heard a soft gasp followed by the sound of someone gagging come from behind her as the wound was exposed to the open air. The wound was a long ragged line, clearly made with a blade that had some kind of a serrated edge. Dried blood was caked around the edges of the wound and some blood still trickled from the wound itself. The puckered red line was a sharp contrast to the teen’s pale skin. Surprisingly, though, was that though the blood was dry it still had yet to turn brown like all blood did when it dried.
“Birch, why don’t you go home? This is worse than I thought, so it will take more time than I originally thought. Just go home,” Saluka said with a slight grimace as she began cleaning out the wound. “Besides, I can’t deal with you if you decide to puke all over the floor in here.”
“OK... I’ll go. I can’t stand to look at such a gruesome and horrifying wound any longer anyway,” Birch mumbled as he whirled around and all but ran out of the room.
Saluka smiled grimly as the door slammed shut. Finally, he was gone and now she could fully concentrate on taking care of the teen in front of her. She quickly finished cleaning out the wound and bandaged it expertly. After only a few moments, the wound was covered by several layers of lily white bandages, along with most of his upper body. The long wound had started at his right shoulder and curved around his chest to end on his left side, effectively cutting through several muscles as well as the strange tribal tattoo on his chest.
Rising slowly to her feet, the young woman staggered slightly, as her legs had fallen asleep. Shaking out her legs briefly, she walked down to the kitchen to make herself something to eat. Trying to patch someone up in a limited amount of time sure could give someone an appetite. Right before she walked fully out of the room, she glanced back at the young man in her bed and smiled slightly.
“I sure hope you wake up, stranger. I would really like to ask you a few questions,” she whispered before slipping from the room and closing the door.
The young woman, after stopping to make herself a sandwich, fell asleep on one of the couches in the study across from Lance’s room. Needless to say, waking up almost five hours later freaked her out. In an attempt to jump to her feet, her legs tangled themselves in a blanket one of the servants had thrown over her and she fell flat on her face. Biting back a curse, she slowly sat up and rubbed her nose. Suddenly, a noise from her bedroom distracted her. Getting to her feet slowly, she walked over to the large door.
Opening it just a crack, she saw the teen she had patched up sitting up in the bed with his head in his hands. She also saw that one of the servants must have come in and pulled the curtains back because the room was brightly lit and she could have sworn that they were closed when last she was in there. There was also a blanket bunched up around the teen’s waist that seemed to further prove that one of the servants had been in the room.
Pulling back slightly, Saluka whispered to herself, “Good, he’s still alive. I almost thought that it was certain that he would die but I’m glad that I was wrong.”
Despite her soft voice, the boy looked up, his head turning sharply toward the door. Saluka stepped back in surprise as he did so. After a few moments of tense silence, he shook his head and turned away. Taking a deep breath, Saluka stepped forward and opened the door fully. Once again, the young man’s head snapped toward her. This time she walked half way into the room instead of backing away. She only stopped when he tensed up as he looked at her. The two of them stood there like that for several moments and Lance took the time to get a good look at the young woman in front of him.
She was wearing an interesting patchwork style dress that was blue, red, green, gold, and black. The fabric hugged her curves closely, showing off her delicate figure. He also saw that her long hair was a deep, rich, sapphire blue that set off her deep emerald eyes. The only part of her that could have possibly made him laugh was her hat; it was bright purple and bright pink with three long tassels coming from the center that ended in little pom-pom-like things. On anyone else, it would probably look really, really stupid, but not on her. It just highlighted her strange and slightly eccentric looking wardrobe.
Shaking his head mentally, he found that he was a little surprised that she didn’t take a few steps back. She seemed like the timid type of person- someone who was more likely to run and hide when confronted with danger. Even so, he found himself relaxing slightly, but his fingers stayed clenched around the edge of the sheets, just in case she turned out to have a very different personality than he was anticipating.
Seeing this, she stepped forward, her mouth opening and closing for a few moments before she finally spoke. “How are you feeling?”
Lance looked at her for a few seconds before he nodded. “I’m doing alright. Thanks for asking.”
With a soft smile, she leaned forward slightly, looking closely at his eye. Just barely hidden in the blue depths was a question that he was just dying to ask but was afraid of what her reaction would be. She also noticed the listless look from earlier was gone, replaced by a strong fire that was slightly tempered by something unknown to her. She straightened up after a moment, tilting her head lightly to the side as she did so. Bringing one hand to her chin, she thought about how best to answer his unspoken question. After a few seconds, she nodded to herself and dropped her hands.
“Well, if you wanted to know, you are at my house in Starhawk, the capital city of the Luminia Province. My name is Saluka Meyia, by the way. What’s yours?” Saluka said, trying to sound confident but failing slightly as her voice trembled a bit on the last word.
“I see... I was wondering where I was, thanks. My name is Lance and I don’t really know my last name, sorry. Nice to meet you Saluka. I think,” Lance replied, turning and holding out his right hand gingerly.
Saluka stared at his hand for a second, as if she was expecting it to sprout wings or something, before she realized that he wanted to shake her hand. Giving him a sheepish smile, she took his hand. His fingers wrapped securely around her hand and gave it a firm shake before he let her go. Even after he let go, Saluka realized that the strange heat that now seemed to radiate off his body continued to linger in her hand. Pulling the appendage to her chest, she moved slowly to sit on the edge of the bed.
Lance looked at her, clearly alarmed when she sat down but he did nothing aside from tensing up slightly. Giving him a reassuring smile, she started talking to him, first about boring, simple things. Then, as he warmed up to her, she moved on to slightly more complex topics. His attitude at first was very open and his responses were the same. Unfortunately, as the questions got more and more complex, his responses became more and more guarded. This puzzled her at first but she decided to let it go in favor of switching to more casual topics. Suddenly, she stopped right in the middle of her sentence. It wasn't because Lance was a bad listener; he was a great listener in fact. It was because she had heard footsteps outside the door headed toward the room, and they were fast.