Prologue: The Departure
Nakushi rested her hand over Renous’ mouth, her gentle fingers soothing his crying even though he knew she was just trying to get him to be quiet.
“Where are you?” A voice slithered through the darkness. “Do you expect me to think you have already left the room? I know you are in here, I saw you come in. There is no way you could have gotten out; there are no doors or windows to go through.”
“Shit.” Nakushi hissed, looking at the shocked eyes of her son with a slight grin. No one talked like that around him, especially not her. Though considering how stressful the situation was, she had only let her lips part. It had almost involuntarily left her mouth.
“Come on Shi, let this be over with.” The voice said again, it like black satin draped over a bloodstained bed sheet. “It won’t be so bad coming home, will it? I might even let you bring that little bastard with you.”
Nakushi’s brow darkened, her hazel eyes glinting with rage. “Ren, Baby,” She said slowly. They were sitting in the bathtub at the moment, curled down on the base, the remaining water droplets from her sons bath earlier soaking into their bed clothes. It was just like him, ambushing them at night. “I have to lead him away. You understand that, right?”
“Actually . . .” The voice said. “I don’t think you will be leading me anywhere.”
There was a splintering crack across the room, the door breaking off of its hinges and hitting the wall. He stepped inside, his smile sadistic, slimy, like a snakes.
Nakushi growled, locking eyes with him. She jumped up, zipping over Renous and propelling herself off of the edge of the tub. She flew across the small washroom and hit the intruder in the abdomen, her fists driving into his ribs. He cried out and crumbled to the floor, and by then Renous was already straining to grasp onto his mother’s hand. She reached further back and latched onto his wrist, pulling him into the air as she sprinted out of the broken doorway. There were splinters in her feet, and even some in her hands; but she could not feel them.
They paused outside of the room. Sometimes the man had brought cronies to defend him; he might have been magically gifted, but he was as weak as a child when it came to physicality.
“Where is Da?” Renous said, his voice breathy.
Nakushi looked up, searching the narrow hallway with her eyes. “I don’t know, Ren. He must have heard us, right?”
“Mum.” The boy pointed behind her, his emerald eyes filling with tears. She spun around, looking at a corpse that hung from the ceiling by a thin, black cord. A gasp trickled out of her mouth, one that was more like a sickly groan than one of surprise. “Baby?” She asked, running a hand through her sons white hair. He seemed to respond, but it was only a louder sob then the others. “Baby, I am going to have you turn around.” She said. He did as she asked, and she slowly shuffled towards the hanging being.
One of her hands came up, her index finger hooking the corner of her lip, her eyes hot and wet. “. . . Ray?” She breathed.
There was no answer. The Dark Mage lay strangled above her, his bed clothes wrinkled and bloody on his elongated limbs, his extraordinarily pale skin now a deathly gray. She reached up and parted the hair out of his face, it long and white, just like their sons. His two eyes, which also had once mirrored Renous’, where gouged out of his head, leaving behind two bloody sockets. Her throat let out a high pitched crack, a hand paused on his cheek, the other tugging at her lip.
“On second thought, I do not think I will let him come with you now.” The voice rung from the end of the hallway, a figure exiting her sons room and limping towards them. In the pale light of the moon she could see his veins, climbing up his neck like tree branches. What had he done to himself in the five years they had been separated? “Too many bad memories attached to the beast.” He spat, blood and spittle hitting against the wall.
“I’ll kill him, don’t worry, my Lovely.” She whispered to the corpse before her. “I will . . . I will avenge you.”
“Enough sniveling!” The man stepped forward, his curly blonde hair stained with red. He looked like a mad man, which surprised her; before, he would hardly ever blatantly show his colors. “You never loved him, not really, just like you never truly loved me. It is not within your nature; but I think I can change that, Shi.” He bent around the corpse, pushing it out of the way as he thrust his head forward. His neck was bent back, it long and white, nearly indistinguishable from the dead skin that lay just a few inches away. He was searching her eyes, seeing every crack in her being. “Time can change anything.”
“Renous.” She called, looking over her shoulder. The boy raised his head, his eyes locked on his father’s body. “Baby? Can you hear me? Look at me Ren.” He did as she asked, though it took a few seconds. Nakushi began again, grinning that same sad grin she had shown him when she swore. “Run.”
The boy spun around and flew towards the door. The man reached his hand out, his face turning to rotting flesh, red gas shooting from his fingers towards her son. Nakushi ducked, elbowing him once again in the stomach. He was startled, staggering back for only half a second. She stood before him, her arm muscles flexed, her feet at the ready, her fists up. “It is time to step out of the shadows!”
“Out of the shadows?” He snarled, his voice a rasping echo. “Do you truly believe you could handle me in such a light?” She reached out, her arm swinging in a right hook, hitting him across the jaw. He would not use his magic on her, oh no. He needed her alive, needed her to satisfy the gaping hole that he felt every moment of his life. He also, could not face her physically. It was one of the reasons she had never missed a day in her training. She was not skilled in magic or any particular weapon; she preferred to use her hands instead. It was more personal that way.
As soon as he was falling back, he disappeared. She remembered this, the terrible spell of teleportation. He was at the end of the room now, wiping blood off of his lips. “That was an awful punch, my darling. You better find your son before I do.” He chuckled. “Because if you do not, I will make sure you never find him.” His form slowly faded out, disappearing into the air.
Nakushi took in a deep breath and bolted towards the door her son had fled through. “I’m coming, Renous!”
The boy was breathing heavily as he dashed through the forest, his home getting smaller and smaller as his feet nearly floated over the ground. He could see the hollow sockets of his fathers eyes, the blood dripping dod like he had been mutilated out of hatred. Had he even been awwn his thin lips, his hands twisted and broken. It almost lookeake to defend himself?
These were thoughts he knew he was too young to think about. For now, he pushed it into the back of his mind, so far he could feel it running behind him. He closed his eyes and screamed, it ending in a wracking, powerful high pitched note. He was sprinting now, his breath coming in short, strangled gasps. He was outrunning it, the horrible corpse that his father appeared to be. He could see him now, only he was not that lie that he had been told. He was not dead, he was not even close to death. He was running with him now, the sun rising in the east, making his pale exterior glow like white light. His face turned, a smile that showed his rows of sharp teeth brought tears to his eyes. Others might have found it unsettling, but that thought had never once crossed his mind.
Renous’ feet were beginning to slow, his ankles shrieking in pain, his lungs constricted. His toes were scraping against the ground, and soon they caught onto a branch of the underbrush. He fell forward, landing in a small puddle. It was cold at this time, spring just having beaten winter back into its cave of ice and snow. The mud was nearly frozen, causing his hands to redden as they slapped against it. He buried his face in the left sleeve of his pajamas and cried softly into the night.
There were footsteps behind him. He gasped and rolled over, backing away quickly as a tall, looming figure approached him. “NO!” He shrieked. “NO GET BACK! GET BACK YOU-”
“Renous, be quiet, please!” A familiar voice said. The figure extended a hand, grasping onto his and pulling him to his feet. It was his mother, who clutched him against her thighs. “Baby, I am so sorry.”
“Mum.” He said with a shudder.
“Come now, I think I have a place for you to stay.” She took a few steps and pulled him along.
“Stay where? Where are you going? I am not leaving you!” He protested.
"Baby, any other time I would listen to you, but this is not the time. You must do as I say, and if you do not, you will die. Understand me?” She stared down at him with her hazel eyes, ones that glinted dangerously. “Answer me!”
“Yes, Mum.” He replied.
“You are going to stay with a couple in a town called Maladropolis. You must never leave that place, not for a very long time.” She put a hand on his head again, tilting it back so he would look at her. “Promise me that you will not leave that place until it is absolutely necessary.”
“I promise.” He said.
“Now here is something that you can never forget.” She crouched down, his face now cupped in her dark skinned hands. “Never forget that I love you, that your father loves you. Never, not in your entire life.”
“I will not forget.” He said, swallowing hard.
“Okay, Baby.” She grasped his hand again and pulled him up into the air, swinging him around until his hand grasped onto her shoulder. She let his hand go then and wrapped her arms around his legs, carrying him on her back. “This is going to take a while, but I am going to get you there.”
They had to make two stops in four days, his mother an endless energy machine. She had no shoes to cover her feet, no coat to keep her warm; and even as Renous lay asleep in her arms, exhausted, she continued to move. They stopped at a cave once, where he had awakened for a few short hours. He placed his hand on the wall, it sloping so flatly over his head it was like a room that only he could access. He traced his long, thin fingers until his mother called to him again. At various times she gave him some water to drink, but they had not brought any food with them. She neglected herself, her clothes nearly in rags by the time the village came into view.
“Look, Ren.” She pointed to the glowing lanterns that hung over the streets, standing feebly on the side of a grassy hill. He was on her back, looking through her dark hair with tired eyes. “They look so beautiful, don’t they?”
He did not respond.
The Dark Elf brought him into the town slowly, realizing that her ex husband was far behind. He could teleport, that was true, but only over a short distance. He would not dare come here anyway, the people were too ready to strike against magic users. Here, they nearly burned them at the stake.
Even though this concerned her, considering her sons heritage, she knew that the woman she would give him to would not do anything to hurt him. Her name was Leia, who was probably in her thirties now; it did not matter too much.
They shared a special bond, a bond that could only be tied through suffering through the same evil. Now that she thought about it, they had escaped it in the same way as well.
“Alright, I need you to be respectful towards these people. They are your parents now.” Nakushi whispered, traipsing through the town, scanning the house numbers as the entire population snored at the moon.
Renous began to speak again. “Mum plea-”
“Shush.” She set him down, looking down as she wiped blood off of her split cheek. She did not know how tired she was until she had stopped moving. She bet she could lay down on the street and sleep for days.
Her hand raised to the door before them and knocked softly. After a few minutes there was some shuffling and it opened, yellow light spilling out over their palid faces. It was a tall, thin man with sunken eyes and skin that was nearly orange with tan. “Are you alright?” He asked quickly, reaching out a hand to support Nakushi. “What happened?”
“I am sorry about this.” The Dark Elf said softly, withdrawing her hand from his. “I am so sorry that I am . . .” Her voice trailed off in a slight crack.
“What? Who is it?” A woman pushed her head in between the man’s shoulder and the doorframe. “Oh my!” She gasped. “You have come back!”
“I cannot stay.” Nakushi shook her head, pushing Renous towards them. “He is . . . coming after me. I need you to take care of my son. I know he would never touch you, not again.” She sank to her knees and wiped her moistened eyes. “I had no one else to go to.”
The woman, assuming it was Leia, rushed out from behind her husband and drew the woman up in a loving embrace. “You can stay with us, you have to. I don’t care if he comes after me again; a child should not be without his mother.”
“And that is what you shall be. He will forget me in time, and I am alright with that.” Nakushi pushed her back a little, so she could see her face. “I am alright with the fact that he will forget his father was hanging dead in front of his face.”
“What!” The man croaked. “What did he do?”
“He killed Ray.” The Dark Elf sighed tiredly, too exhausted to shed a tear. “And that means I have to kill him.”
“Ah.” Leia nodded slowly, understanding her situation. “No one could ever prevent you from at least trying, my dear.”
“The only thing I ask is that he won’t be brought out of his place until he is an adult, until he can make his own decisions.” She ran a hand through her sons hair once again, feeling every soft fiber, storing it in the back of her mind for a later time. “Again, I am truly sorry.”
“No no, do not be sorry. He will be safe here, that I promise you on my own life.” Leia again, hugged her tight. “You do what you must do.”
“Thank you, my friend.” Nakushi whispered, shedding a tear and letting it drop on the womans brown hair. “Thank you so much.”
“Don’t die.” The woman said, pushing her back and wiping the tears off of her friends face.
The Dark Elf stared at her for a long moment, finally feeling the pain that swarmed her body like a hive of bees. “Goodbye.” She said to the couple before looking at her son for what she thought would be the last time. “Goodbye, Baby.”
Renous was no longer in tears, but his eyes were glossed over with moisture that glinted in the darkness like emerald gems. “Mum?” He said weakly, his body frozen so still he could have been knocked over like a statue.
Nakushi swallowed hard and turned to her left, limping down the boardwalk. Leia reached down and picked up the boy, walking into the house as he stared over her shoulder at his mother’s back. “Mum?” He said again, his voice cracking dryly. “Mum!”
Nakushi walked faster, each step sending a shockwave of pain through her body. It would be tough to regain her momentum, but she knew that if she had a few hours rest she could get to the next town and prepare for his arrival. He would find her, as he always did, but this time she would be ready.
Renous continued to watch her, his hands clawing at the door frame as he pulled against his new foster mother. “MUM!” He screamed, his voice like that of a bleating lamb. “MUM, COME BACK! MUM!”
“I know, I know.” Leia lifted one of her matronly hands and unhooked his arm, holding his trembling body against her chest. She shut the door behind her and quickly took a seat on the couch, holding him steadily as he sobbed. He was punching her, but his small hands did nothing to her as she squeezed him tighter and tighter against herself. “I know . . .” was the only phrase she could say, worry rooted deep in the creases of her forehead.
“What are we going to do with him?” Gus, her husband, asked.
“Well, raise him.” Leia said flatly. “She cannot beat him. She won’t be back for him . . .”
“Are you sure about tha-”
“So sure I would rather tear my tongue out before I would join her in that quest.” She stared up at him with cold, emotionless eyes. “She is going to die.”
Renous moaned, unable to continue his emotional outburst as exhaustion began to shut down his small, frail body. “Mum . . .” He said again, the word repeating in his mouth over and over again until the tone and pitch were established.
“I’ll put him to bed.” Leia said, standing up. She crossed the room softly, opening one of their bedrooms with a foot. Tonight she would roll out a blanket for him, but tomorrow they would be sure to get a bed and make one of their rooms his own.
A few seconds later a blood curdling scream bled through the walls, freezing them in place as they tried not to react. They knew very well who it was, but all they could hope was that Renous did not.
They went to bed shortly after that.