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Chapter 1 ~ A Tale Begins

R e n a

I love to sleep past sunrise, a rare thing for someone like me though I have nothing better to do anyway, but Barnabus it seems, has other ideas. I can feel him pecking lightly at my cheek and hair. I try to brush him away as I turn over but he persists to awaken me.

In the end I give up my need to slip back into the grey mists of dream and let my eyes slide open.

“By the Gods Barnie, what do you want?” I groan, blinking my eyes into focus.

Barnie hoots at me twice before continuing his irritating and persistent pecking.

I shove him off and sit up while he flurries over to a safer spot, a place where he knows that I can’t reach out and swat at him. I sit up brusquely and rub the sleep from my drowsy eyes.

“I guess that would mean that you’re hungry then?” I ask, already knowing the answer.

He gives me another hoot to confirm my question.

I roll my eyes, running a hand through my straggly hair. “Aren’t owls supposed to sleep during the day?”

Barnabus tilts his head to the side as if to tell me ‘so what?’

“Stupid bird,” I mutter as I stand up and pull myself out from under my tent.

For the last three days I’ve been camped out on the rooftop of a run down building. To explain why would be a tale to tell, but I have neither the drive or patience to tell such story of woe and misery and it is one I wish not to enlighten anyone with. The less people know about me, the better.

The past is the past, there is no use dwelling on something that can’t be changed or rectified. All it is there for is to learn from and move on.

Usually, I don’t stay in the same place for more than two days, to do so would be like serving myself to my enemies on a silver platter. Moving from place to place, never settling down in one spot is the safest way for me to live. Not being caught by that demon scum is proof enough for me to keep on moving. I don’t intend to be captured again. I can’t be trapped in a cage again; my freedom is all I have. I’ll never go back.

I mean to keep on moving until I reach the southern end of the great wall, then a new plan will be made.

At least that was my plan, until I’d arrived in the eastern borders of the city.

It isn’t like any other part of Aldevia. I guess it could even be called beautiful, in a dark, monstrous kind of way.

But it’s more than just the scenery that keeps me here. When I’d first arrived I’d felt as though there was something I needed to do here. I still have no idea as to what it is, but I’ve decided to stay a little longer so that I might possibly be able to figure it out.

Barnie doesn’t like the idea, he’s used to us moving constantly and so sitting around and waiting for nothing in particular is agitating him to no end. But I run on my intuition and if my gut feeling is telling me we should stay a little while longer, then we will. No matter the opinion of my feathered companion.

I walk over to the edge of my latest rooftop camp site and gaze over the city of Aldevia, the only place I’ve ever been able to call my home.

Barnie flies over and settles himself on my right shoulder, his claws gripping tightly so that he doesn’t lose balance. With a small smile, I stroke his dark feathered chest with my forefinger and hear him coo softly in response.

Birds are rare in Aldevia and the Demon inhabitants seem to have developed a taste for them. No matter the species, no matter how small they are sold and eaten alive.

I saved Barnie from this horrific fate, took him in and cared for him. An action that is forbidden in Aldevia, but then I’ve never been one to play by the rules.

We’re rarely seen together when I slip into towns for supplies, but when we are caught no one really bothers to take him from me and if they try, the consequences aren’t pretty.

But we do have our differences. He actually likes other impure ones, ones who haven’t been fully tainted by the Demonata of course, though I can’t say the same for me. I’m an impure one through and through, but I have never seen myself as one of them, not for a long time. I don’t like people and tend to stay away. Keeping to myself is the best and only way for me to live now. Befriending anyone would be dangerous and I’d be drawing too much attention to myself and that is the last thing I need.

“I think it’ll be a couple more nights and then we’ll leave,” I tell my flying companion.

He looks at me hard and pecks at my ear to show he isn’t happy with my decision.

“Just a few nights Barnie, it’s not like it’ll hurt anybody,” I reason.

Barnie doesn’t make a noise, but he pecks my ear once more to show his frustration.

“So what will it be today Barnie boy?” I ask him, deciding to change the subject quickly.

Barnie looks at me, then hoots loudly and I smile at him.

“My thoughts exactly,” I reply.

I turn back around and face my little campsite, set out orderly in front of me. My mark begins to glow as I begin my routinely runeshaping, casting the runes Inguz and Bjarkan over my camp, painting their symbols in the air with only my finger for a paintbrush.

Once the runes are casted, my mark fades back to normal and with a long drawn out breath, I turn back to the edge of the rooftop. I glance over at Barnie with a devilish grin on my face.

“You ready?” I ask him.

As soon as the words are released from my mouth he cries out and pushes himself up into the air. As if on cue he dives down into the alleyway below, just as I let a chuckle escape my lips and jump.

K i a n

I’m reading again, but it comes as no surprise really.

The only problem I’m faced with is the fact that books are forbidden as is reading, but then that has never seemed to stop me before. Even though I know as well as anyone else, that if I’m ever caught, the punishment is death or possibly something even worse, something I dare not even think about.

Strangely though, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest, in fact it only makes it all the more thrilling. Ever since discovering the hidden catacombs and secret tunnels under my home stacked with hundreds of books, I’ve taken every chance I get to read.

I’ve often wonder who stashed all these old books and maps down there and when. In the books I’ve read it tells about adventures, treasures such as gold and diamonds and rubies.

I know gold is precious and though I have no clue as to what amount the pretty looking stones are worth, I still believe that the only true treasure that is worth more than anything in the world is the knowledge hidden within the pages of these books.

My need for knowledge and drive to learn the contents of every book I pick up seems to be unmatched and over the years with time I’ve slowly taught myself how to read and understand the odd squiggles and looped letters drawn on every page.

Though I know to be careful and to never to share this information with just anyone, I couldn’t keep a secret as special as this one just to myself and so I’d told my closest and most trusted friend, Maya, an impure girl who lived across from the large market place near my home.

She was the only one who knew my secret and shared my enthusiasm for learning the contents of every book I’d been able to show her, who knew what the pages contained.

Together we would talk about the knowledge within the books and the pictures on the maps, realising quickly that Aldevia and Draäl weren’t the only places in our world that existed. We’d search and study these unknown territories for hours if we could, until every last town, every last village was imprinted onto our minds.

And with this knowledge soon came the desires and the dreams to leave the city that bound us by force, that give us no choice but to stay within its impenetrable walls.

Then, one day I happened to stumble upon it, the answer we needed. I’d been searching through the catacombs once more, searching for yet another book to fill me with knowledge, when I’d found a book unlike any other I’d come across before.

It hadn’t been long before both myself and Maya were reading its pages with great passion. In the hours that followed, we read about a sacred city in the sky named Asgard, the kingdom of the Gods. The book told us of how it had fallen in the time of Ragnarök and had been reconstructed by its dwellers some time after.

For within the pages of this book, it had given the answer we’d wanted so badly, a way to be free of Aldevia, a way to explores the unknown realms out there, a way to the most sacred lands of all; Asgard, kingdom of the gods.

This was how our plan had formed; we were going to leave Aldevia.

Both Maya and myself had soon decided to escape the city somehow and go in search of Asgard, a place we’d dreamt of for so long.

For months we’d been preparing; stashing away supplies for our journey deep within the catacombs, waiting patiently and biding our time until we were ready.

And after much anticipation and preparation the wait was no more, for today is that day.

I’m nervous, but my excitement is enough to distract me from my fears and doubts.

Ever since Maya and I had come up with this genius plan, I’ve been waiting anxiously for this day to arrive.

From the start we’d both agreed we had nothing to lose.

Maya is an impure one, meaning she has no family and as for her guardians, they had always been cruel and vicious towards her. Countless times she’d come crying to me, needing the safety and comfort of my embrace.

And though I know I can’t exactly say the same about my own parents, cruelty has always been in their nature.

The only thing I’ve ever felt towards them is anger. For years they’ve treated me more like a slave than a son and I’m finally done with them. Their part in my life is now over.

I close the book I’ve been reading and wrap it up in a light cloth, sliding it carefully into my satchel, where I’ve been preserving the stashed food.

I can feel my adrenaline pumping and I’m ready to put the first phase of our plan into action.

Maya had promised me she’d meet me in the centre of the market place today. It’s the market’s busiest day and no one will notice us sneaking away. As I dwell on this though, I suddenly remember how I’d complimented her on such a great idea, how she had blushed at my words. This thought makes me smile and calms my nerves slightly.

Just as I’m about to make my way out of my room, I notice a black bird sitting outside my window and I stop short. For a moment neither of us moves, then the bird suddenly flies off and I curse inwardly.

That is no ordinary bird. That is a raven; one of the many messengers of the Demonata, their eyes and ears to keep all of Aldevia in check.

My heart doubles in speed. There is no time left for me to wonder how long the bastard has been sitting there, observing my every move. All there is time for now is to find Maya and run. For now they’ll be looking for us and to catch us would result in the worst punishment I can think of; Hell.

The only thing that is running through my mind is Maya.

I just hope to the Gods that she’s safe. I pray that the Demonata guards haven’t got to her yet, because I’m certain they’ll know about me breaking the law and smuggling books by now. That blasted bird is on its way to report me, if he hasn’t already reached them and told them of what he’s seen. Time is of the essence now and I can’t just hang about. I need to leave and fast.

Grabbing my satchel, I slip it into the folds of my cloak and sling my sack over my shoulder, exiting my room in a rush, not even realising to shut my door securely as I usually do and instead leaving the door wide open.

‘They’ll be on their way now,’ I think, my mind calculating every possibility of escape as I rush out of the door and head towards the market place.

R e n a

I’ve never known why, but I have always loved busy market places. Be it the bustle of people buying and selling or some sheer thrill, I’ve always been drawn to them like some kind of magnet.

Maybe it’s because I feel as though I can disappear into the dense crowd or because maybe I just feel safer. I guess I’ll never really know.

Barnie is the complete opposite; he likes people but not crowds. I automatically glance up at him as he flies over the scene. It seems like as long as he has me in his view point, he’s happy and calm.

I can’t say I blame him; I am his food source after all.

Though as hard as I try, I can never disappear from him for very long. His eyesight is too good and he’s too clever, outsmarting my tactics every time.

The advantage of large crowds, it seems, is that the sellers don’t always notice what is going on around them. So I pass stalls, slipping fruit and bread into the satchel I have hidden under my shawl. It’s taken me a long time to become this smooth at stealing, but I’ve had a lot of practice over the years and now I can proudly say that I’m a pro.

I make my way through the market, but nothing else seems to catch my eye. I’ve already grabbed enough food to last Barnie and myself another day or so and there is no need for any more material for clothes, so I let myself wander, my eyes skimming over the stalls only partially interested in what they have to offer.

Nowadays I don’t tend to hang around people so much. I stay out of their way and scale the rooftops, only rarely using the streets. I travel alone, the only company I ever have is that of my beautiful black owl, Barnie.

I’ve never known my family, not that you could call them that. I disowned them just as they did me the moment I was born. I don’t even have a single friend, aside from Barnie that is.

Not that it bothers me and even if it did I did have a friend, I’d still class them as a liability. Those kinds of emotions are a luxury and only ever slow you down. Only anger and sheer determination are the key to get you anywhere in this life and don’t I know it.

K i a n

I reach the market in a short amount of time, but it’s so busy that I can’t see Maya anywhere. I start to worry and panic begins to take over.

I have very little time; the Demonata soldiers could already be hot on my trail and the last thing I need is to waste time searching for Maya. I feel the eyes of the raven above burning into me as I rush through the crowd, my eyes searching frantically through the crowd for Maya.

I push my way through the crowd, but there is still no sign of her. It’s as I’m panicking that I see it. It’s just a quick glimpse but I notice it straight away; a wisp of fiery red hair, the same colour as Maya’s curls.

I know for a fact that no one else from around here has the same beautiful shade of fiery red hair as Em. I smile with relief as the thought calms me slightly.

‘I’ve found her,’ I think, relishing the thought.

R e n a

I’m still wandering around the market, when I feel someone grab my wrist hard and begin to pull me through the crowd backwards.

At first I’m in a state of shock which quickly turns to fear and then to anger. I don’t know why this stranger has decided to grab me but I don’t like it, but no one touches me and gets away with it.

I try to free my wrist but it seems my captor has a grip tighter than a python’s. I glare at him, but he has his back to me, pushing through the crowd.

I don’t bother yelling, there isn’t much point seeing as he wouldn’t hear me anyway and me yelling my head off would just lead to unwanted eyes and ears.

Then I catch his face and it surprises me; there is fear written all over it and I can see he isn’t trying to hide it either. This confuses me.

Why would someone grab a random girl in the middle of a busy market place and not even have the sense to hide his fear of being caught at kidnapping?

‘Amateur,’ I think as we suddenly break out of the swarm of people. In seconds, he quickly pulls me into an alley a few metres away.

Once we are both hidden in the alley he starts rambling on, not even looking at me as he speaks. He isn’t as old as I thought he was originally.

He’s probably older than me, but not by much, a year or so maybe?

He has white blonde straight hair that just covers his neck and strong arms covered in tanned skin. His most alluring feature, I have to admit, are his eyes. They must be the greenest eyes I have ever seen; funny thing is I’m sure I see hints of gold in them too.

I can hear Barnie screeching for me, I can tell by the way he’s calling, that he’s frantic. He can’t find me in the crowd and so calling me is the only thing he can do.

I don’t call to him as I’m focused only on the blabbering idiot in front of me.

“We might have a problem. I think tha-.”

The boy suddenly stops and takes a moment to actually look at me properly.

I have a feeling that my boiling rage is now completely obvious on my face and if I wasn’t so mad right now, it’d almost be amusing to watch his reaction.

I just hope to the Gods that this boy has a good reason for grabbing me.

K i a n

“Y-you aren’t Maya,” I hear myself say as I stare at the girl in front of me.

Anyone can see that I’ve really pissed her off. But my embarrassment is forgotten in seconds as I really take this girl in.

She is the exact image of Maya, except from a few minor details; the same angular face and rounded chin, the same small ears and mouth.

She has the same pale freckly skin and the same fiery red hair, only hers are loose curls that only just stretch past her shoulders, whereas Maya’s hair falls in ringlets all the way down her back.

She even has the same light silver eyes, hidden behind a short curtain of hair, only this girl’s eyes are cold and hard. You can see the anger and mistrust in them as she watches me and I shift uncomfortably where I stand.

“My mistake, I’m sorry but I thought you were-,” I begin.

“Somebody else? A friend of yours perhaps?” she says, finishing my sentence.

I nod and look straight at her. “Yes, something like that.”

“And I suppose you grab all your friends like that?” she asks.

At this, I feel my cheeks burn. “Well-.”

She grunts, probably out of anger and then whistles hard. I hear a sudden shriek from the sky and look up.

An owl suddenly swoops down and lands on the girl’s shoulder, nuzzling into her neck with affection whilst cooing.

I jump back in shock. It’s an odd looking thing. Black all over, except from some places on its face where its colour is a burgundy red. I’ve certainly never seen anything like it before. I don’t seem to be the only one who breaks the law.

“Well you’d better be going seeing as you said you haven’t got much time,” she says suddenly, in a harsh tone.

I stare at her, still in a daze.

“Speaking of leaving, we’d better be off too,” she adds as if speaking to herself or even the owl still perched on her shoulder.

Without so much of a goodbye, she suddenly begins to climb the drain pipe. I watch her is numb shock as she calmly pulls herself up onto the roof and disappears from my view, just like that.

As I snap back into focus, I realise I have wasted a great deal of time contemplating and wondering about my odd encounter with the strange girl.

Then as I turn to leave the alley way, just out of the corner of my eye, I see them; Demonata soldiers and all five of them heading in my direction.

I know that they are coming for me and might even have already captured Maya. I know with a sinking feeling that there is no time to look for Maya or even try and save her now if she has been captured.

I curse aloud and look tentatively up at the wall Maya’s look-a-like just scaled as easily as a ladder.

I look back at the soldiers, noticing they are much closer now and almost upon me. The crowd around the market seem to take this moment to walk out in front of the alley way where I’m stood, blocking the soldier from the clear path to me.

I quickly take this opportunity, knowing another won’t arise soon enough.

‘It can’t be that hard,’ I think as I rub my hands together and look back at the wall.

R e n a

I’m still angry from my encounter with that odd boy, but my anger is receding due to all the adrenaline I’m getting from it to run across the rooftops and back to my campsite. A part of me hopes that whatever was hunting him down catch him; serves him right for grabbing me. And yet, another part of me wants to turn back and help the poor boy. I remember when I was in that situation and it’s not something I’d like to bring up or be in again.

Barnie is now flying over head again, his eyes almost constantly trailing me now.

I can tell he wasn’t happy about the scare I gave him a little while before and it’s obvious that he isn’t going to let me out of his sight any time soon.

I’m so busy with my thoughts, that I barely even notice the sound coming from behind me. It’s as though someone is brave enough to attempt following me.

My heart quickens and I begin to pick up my pace, the adrenaline pumping hard through my veins.

I’m almost at my full speed when I realise there are only one pair of footsteps and only one person panting, begging me to slow down between ragged breaths.

I jolt to a sudden stop, instantly realising who it is and rolling my eyes with sudden irritation.

By the Gods this boy is really starting to get on my nerves.

K i a n

I was wrong.

My decision to follow the girl and scaling the wall had been long and hard and chasing after her had been even harder.

I’m about to give up and take my chances with the Demonata, when she finally hears my calls and stops suddenly.

“You really are starting to annoy me,” she says, her head partly turned in my direction.

“I never got your name,” I gasp.

I watch her shake her head, then turn back and walk up to me.

“You have ten seconds to tell me what you’re really doing following me or you’ll go over the edge,” she says gesturing over to the corner of the roof.

I wince at the thought and turn back to her. “So it’s like that is it?”

She folds her arms over her chest. “Nine-.”

“Ok! Ok! The Demonata are after me and I have nowhere else to go. Happy?” I explain quickly.

For a moment she just looks me up and down. Then she turns around and begins to walk away.

“Wait, does that mean I can come with you?” I ask.

She grunts at me and continues to make her way over to the edge of the building, before suddenly jumping and landing on the next roof. I follow her actions and come up by her side.

“We were never properly introduced,” I say, attempting to befriend her.

“So?” she replies.

“I’m Kian,” I say, stopping and putting out my hand.

She stops as well and merely glances at my hand.

“Rena” she replies, before continuing across the rooftops.

I lower my hand and follow after her, my mind reeling from the events that have just happened. I’m relieved that she has allowed me to go with her, but she doesn’t look like someone who wants to befriend anyone, almost like a lone wolf.

‘This is going to be a long day,’ I think to myself as I drag behind.

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