Warning: The author has noted that this contains strong violence.

Prologue – For the Shadows

Schatten was getting ready to kill someone. The peasants of the insignificant Isparian village in which grew up would brand him a murderer, and murderers were tortured and banished. On Dereth, however, where the magic of the lifestones brought the dead back to life with simply a hangover and empty pockets, society labeled his kind a “peekay”, and he was one among hundreds. It didn’t matter to Schatten either way. Whether his victims rotted, ascended to Heaven, or woke up in front of a spinning blue crystal was their problem.

Murder was a booming, profitable business on Dereth. On a world where death was temporary and men outnumbered women by a painful margin, wealth became the obsession of most. Adventurers scoured the mountains and explored the deepest dungeons and ruins trying to collect a harem of treasures. Entire monarchies formed to facilitate the never ending quest to stuff mansions full of the rarest antiques. Most Derethians spent their days chasing after this loot; Schatten spent his times chasing after them.

The most sought after items were usually the most ancient or valuable, too old to be used or weighted down with decorations, but occasionally a dead treasure hunter would have a practical weapon or piece of armor. After a few massacres Schatten had collected a decent set of equipment. He wore grey celdon plate armor over his chest and limbs, red steel gauntlets with an enchantment to increase his skill with a claw, silver reinforced shoes, a blue round shield adorned with black studs and spells of strength, and a Virindi mask.

The Virindi were a mysterious type of hovering beings with unknown agendas and bodies. Some humans claimed the Virindi had bodies of pure purple energy, but no one could prove it since they were always shrouded in robes and wore white masks with a crude image of a smiling face carved in them. Killing one would sometimes leave these disguises behind, but never a corpse. Speculations said they wore these masks either to try to fit in with humans, or to mock them. Schatten didn’t think about what purpose these masks served their makers, he wore his for amusement. Something just seemed funny about butchering a pack of humans wearing a caricature of happiness. To him, the Virindi were just another monster that wandered into one of Asheron’s portals and got stranded on this world.

Enchanting all this equipment was the tedious process of getting prepared for a raid. Going through the incantations and gestures for the spells had become a reflex after performing them thousands of times. To Schatten, the most important spell was wiping his soul of mercy. Let someone live whose back is turned, and there’s a good chance they won’t be as considerate when they turn around. He steeled his conscience by entering a trance and recalling a dream while casting the few final spells on his weapon. He placed his Siraluun claw in front of him and readied his magic scepter. The three blue talons of the modified bird claw glowed with electricity and gently sparked. He closed his eyes.

He leapt out of the ditch, sprinting to the wagon on the road. Before the driver could drop the reins and reach for his dagger, a blinding strike of Schatten’s katar tore open his throat.
“Malar Aetek”
The weapon rose in the snow and became lighter.

A man from inside the wagon jumped and stabbed with his pitchfork. No evasion was needed; the katar swung upward with a mind of its own and stopped between two of the iron prongs.
“Malar Aeguz”
The straight handle morphed. Grooves for fingers appeared and the hand guard grew.

Schatten twisted his arm sharply to the left, bringing the points of the pitchfork away with his katar. An eight inch punching weapon can be maneuvered swifter than a five foot pole, and Schatten re-centered while his victim still struggled to regain his grip. A jab to his exposed fingers ended his struggle, and a precise flip of the wrist brought the point of the katar into the man’s heart.
“Malar Aereth”
The tips of the claw became keener and the handle rounded to a more aerodynamic form.

The pitch fork man fell to his side off the wagon. Schatten hopped up and saw a woman inside, huddled over something wrapped in cloth, perhaps the family’s life savings. “Please, no…” the woman begged of the murderer, tears streaming down her face. No, she was not protecting a bag of gold or a family heirloom; she was holding a baby. Schatten decapitated her.
“Malar Aeril”
The blades of the claw grew longer and more fearsome, appearing to thirst for blood. Electric charges flared and lightning angrily jumped from blade to blade, lashing into the air.

He opened his eyes, cold and unfeeling. Schatten was ready to kill someone.

The book will continue with Chapter 1 “Shock Therapy”.
Author’s Notes The character and plot will be getting deeper as the story moves along.
To view this and other works by Gorash please visit his site at fanStory.com

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