Whilst night still held its grip on the world, he’d crept toward the wall, moving from shadow to shadow. The ground around the fortress-city was kept clear of anything higher than a man’s knee for over a hundred paces in all directions, and there was nothing more than scattered scrub and bushes for a hundred paces after that, leaving the defenders atop the wall with a clear killing ground. Even the larger corpses of attackers were removed – hacked apart or burned to ash where they fell. But even this killing ground afforded some cover for those with the knowledge to use it. Taringal had that knowledge; he knew the patrol routes, guard stations, and observation posts along that walltop. He knew the positions of the fixed defences, and where the mobile defences were likely to be deployed.

In short, he knew where not to be if he wanted to stay out of site. His current hiding place was a small depression in the ground that he shared with a pair of corpses – a semi-decomposed Warg, and some unidentified humanoid demon. He nestled in amongst their corpses no more than thirty paces from the wall. He dared go no closer, but a powerful curiosity drove him forward. He felt a desire, a need to be inside the walls. Something in there seemed to be calling to him.

He shook his head slightly at the absurdity of the notion. There was nothing and no-one in there that wanted to see him inside the wall. Lord Omar and his cronies wanted him dead, and everyone else that knew him thought he was dead. Lifting his gaze above the shrouded battlements – from the outside the walls nothing of the defenders could be seen whilst the barrier was up. Warding spells cloaked what little could be seen above the stone ramparts – his eyes settled on the shimmering dome of the barrier.

It had been up for days now, but there had been no sign of an attack. It was unheard of for the barrier to be erected and maintained for this long without a clear and present threat to the fortress-city. The mages and witches that powered it needed to rest after a shift channelling their magics into it. It was said to be incredibly draining for them, and they complained vociferously about having to deploy the barrier needlessly. They must be driving Lord Omar mad with complaints-

His train of thought was ended abruptly at a sudden surge of magical power from the ramparts. There was always a hum of magic up there for those that could sense it – battle-mages and other magical defenders patrolled alongside the regular troops, and there were always observing spells and wards reaching out invisibly to detect hidden attackers. But this was a concentrated search into the killing field. Someone atop the ramparts was searching for something out here. Most likely him. He’d lingered here too long, gazing at the wall and its defences like some fool boy.

He felt the searching spell sweeping the fields like a searchlight. As if his thoughts had been a summons, real searchlights lanced out from the wall tops. Behind the shrouding magics huge oil lamps with curved polished mirrors provided the defenders with more conventional means of spotting the enemy. Light washed over his hiding place and he resisted the urge to flinch. Such a sudden movement would draw the attention of the defenders immediately. The light moved on, unslowed.

He slowly slid away from the corpses, bunching his legs to dart away. That was when the searching spells found him. He felt them touch him, felt them change immediately. Even as he moved in a blur of motion, a firebolt streaked down from the ramparts. He was fast, but caught unawares, not fast enough to outrun a firebolt. The head-sized ball of flaming magic slammed into his back as he ran, knocking him forward. His armour bore the brunt of it, but he felt the searing heat on his neck and grunted loudly. He could feel more magic being cast, and in moments more offensive spells were raining down at him.

Firebolts, the larger explosive fireballs, blasts of ice, pillars of flame. All these and more erupted around him. If not for the minor shielding provided by the demon parasite that made it difficult to target him magically, those spells would have ended him in a moment. As it was he was singed, chilled, and sent reeling as he sped from the killing fields.

Now he sat, brooding in the wan grey light of dawn in the upper branches of a large Oak. He could smell the burned fabric of his coat, and singed hairs on the back of his head. The forest surrounding the fortress-city was largely deserted at the moment, the creatures lurking there retreating deeper into the darkened woods after witnessing the magical onslaught in the night. They’d be back, but for the moment, he was alone. His eyes rested on the fortress-city. He still felt that peculiar need to be there, but his encounter with the fireball earlier had convinced him of the folly of trying to sneak closer to the walls again.

What was this feeling? Some scheme of Olphidius, the Mage-Lord that had headed the research into the parasite that Omar had ‘gifted’ him with? Certainly the Mage-Lord was not above using others to do his dirty work, but how could he know Taringal was still alive? How was he creating this desire to return? If it wasn’t a plan set in motion buy Omar and Olphidius, then what was it?

He had no answers, and nowhere to seek any except inside the walls of the fortress-city.

The dreams didn’t return last night but this morning I’m wracked with guilt again. There’s no way I should have been put in charge or sent on any kind of mission when I don’t know the extent of my own powers or the full lay of the land out there. So is it my fault? Is it lord Omar’s for putting me in a perilous position like that straight away with ordinary men by my side. Yes they have been trained – and from what I’ve seen trained well – but they are merely human and unfortunately, mortal.

Should I have said no? Should I have spurned their advances and explained that I am merely a boy in a man’s body and I am not a saviour, or warrior, or general? At least Willow and Xander attempted to keep out of trouble while Buffy was fighting evil. Xander does eventually lose an eye but he doesn’t get his head bitten straight off! That was just a TV show. This, I think is reality. I don’t know what to think anymore, honestly. I just want to go home…

There’s a knock at the door and before I can draw breath to form the words “Come in” the doors opens. One of the Lord’s assistant stands before me. She is middle aged with brunette hair, she has a curvy figure and a cleavage that leaves little to the imagination. She carries piles of toasted bread and jam, hot water and a pot of something that passes for tea around here. She lays them down next to my bed and retreats briefly from the room before returning with a bucket of hot water and some fresh clothes. She offers to wash me but I decline and do it myself. I eat the food and don’t believe I am ever gonna go hungry again while I’m here, which amongst all the confusion, is a nice thought.

When I leave my room I’m nervous and I spend the whole time wanting to turn back. I don’t want to own up to what happened last night, I don’t want this kind of responsibility. Back home I’m barely considered a man. Here I’m expected to lead a tiny army, and if I don’t, well it’s an entire race on the line. I wonder how they got by before I arrived. I’ve only been here a few days and I’ve never been trained. Surely I could have done that first.

I’m walking through the last corridor and the huge door to Lord Omar’s office is looming before me. Once again I fight the urge to turn back. It’s time to grow up, time to become a man. I take a deep breath and clench my fists…

I hear the words but they don’t sink in. “It is regrettable, but do not fret” he says gravely “We are fighting a war. There will always be casualties in war” he repeats clearly, ‘cause I obviously didn’t take it in the first two times he said it.

“How can it be okay?” I stammer before he wraps his arm around my shoulders “I mean their wives, their children…” I get out eventually, but it’s pointless arguing. He seems calm and not at all angry like I expected. I messed up and he doesn’t really care. He says that all soldiers make their peace with death during their training. As soon as they graduate the academy there wives and mothers are proud and understand fully what could happen. These men are warriors who defend the last of the human race in these parts, and for that they will go to Heaven. I’m not sure about the Heaven part but I can understand the rest of it and it does seem pretty logical to me.

I tell him that I’m not cut out for this job and require training. He smiles and tells me that it’s nonsense. I tell him that I won’t lead more men to their deaths and that someone else can take my position. He smiles and tells me softly but firmly that he won’t hear of it. It’s a battle that’s lost before I even begin to fight it. I’m stuck with this. I’m not exactly sure what he would do to me if I was to refuse all together. At least whilst I’m in this reality I can use this fortress for safety until I find a way home!

There’s a knock on the door and in walked his assistant with a portly, balding man. He extends his hand to shake mine and introduces himself as Barnabus. Lord Omar tells me he is the master tactician of the army and I am to spend the day with him as he wants to pick my brains on what I saw in the week I lived in the wilderness. They wander over to a big window and they exchange pleasantries and talk about things that I have no clue about for a few minutes.

I hear and make out some of the words. Someone called Taringal, or Daringal who needs to be “dealt with”. Something about finding meat for a religious banquet. Other snippets of meaningless conversation. And then I hear her name. Lord Omar sounds cautious and tells Barnabus that he doesn’t want her risked yet.

They return to me and begin to usher me out of the office before I test the water a little “Lord, I was hoping I could spend some time with Allandra today…” I said innocently. A knowing look flashed across his face before he told me that she was busy with their coven learning to control her abilities, and that maybe we could see each other in the future. For now I’m told to focus on protecting everyone, every night. And that should be my only concern…

It was dark by the time he reached his destination. Or to be more precise, the destination the parasite had chosen for him. It happened like that sometimes – the parasite would guide him somewhere, often without him having any idea of where he was heading. It seemed the demon spawn lurking inside of him had its own agenda, one that it didn’t feel like sharing. And that suited him just fine. There was nothing he wanted from the creature nestled in his body.

The journey had been quiet – nothing had tried to kill him – and now the ruins of old town spread out before him. The town lay less than a mile from the wall of the fortress-city, its strange buildings apparently dating back to before the foundation of the city. Taringal had only been there once, before his exile, as part of a patrol-raid. It was known by the commanders in the city that creatures of the dark occasionally used the town as a place to launch attacks on the fortress-city, so they organised raid-patrols to venture forth and keep the demons from amassing too great a force. Targingal had questioned why the ruins were left intact if they posed such a danger. He had been told they formed a link to their past, a link that the fortress-city was not ready to let go of. Later, he had learned that the other reason they didn’t destroy it was the animals that often made their homes in the abandoned town. Raid-patrols would often bring back wild boar or game cat from the ruins. It was the fortress-city’s only external source of meat.

His stomach growled at the thought of food, even though he felt no real hunger. It had been little over a week since he last physically consumed something, yet his body showed no ill effects for it. The parasite kept him sustained, but his belly still craved real sustenance. Maybe tonight he would-

A Human cry echoed up from somewhere in the jumble of buildings, severing his chain of thought. The city must have launched one of its forays into old town. And from that cry, they’d run into trouble. Without a seconds hesitation he was sprinting from the tree line, reaching ahead of him of him with his unholy senses. He ignored the foul shades that marked the presences of all manner of demons lurking in their holes, focusing in on the wavering lights of the Humans. One light snuffed out as he raced through the rubble-strewn streets, and he strove to increase his pace.

He stopped suddenly, spraying rubble ahead of him as he skidded to a halt. Up ahead, out of sight around a corner the Humans fought a demon, some warped abomination of human and canine. But that wasn’t what made him stop. One of the humans blazed with power, almost like one of the magic users from the fortress-city, but different somehow. This wasn’t something he’d sensed before. And from the unease emanating from the parasite, it was something the demon didn’t like. The feeling he got back from the human was that of a man, but… enhanced? That was the closest word he could fit to the sensation.

As he stood there, he sensed the demon thing die at the hands of the enhanced human, and the remaining Humans – only three, including the strange enhanced one. Such a small number to send on a raid-patrol – headed back towards one of the secret passages that linked the city-fortress to old town. Taringal followed at a distance, leaping from atop a rusting metal carcass to the roof of a nearby building. e He jkhkj Keeping low and using his preternatural vision he struggled to catch a glimpse of the Human with the strange power in him. Finally, as they reached the concealed entrance he saw him.

Just a boy, he thought, watching the three survivors vanish into the tunnel. For a mad second he considered following them. Along that passage lays home…. he shook his head. Death was all that awaited him along that passage. He slipped away, resuming the hunt, puzzled by what he’d seen.

He barely even noticed that the parasite was no longer guiding him. As if it had already taken him where it wanted to go.

Through the canopy of the forest, the towers of the fortress-city were visible, banners flapping in the breeze atop a handful of them. Above that, a hazy dome shimmered, at its closest half a dozen metres from the tops of the highest towers. As surely as the walls kept the demons on the ground outside, that dome kept the winged creatures out. It also protected the vulnerable city areas of the fortress from other more conventional methods of attack – it was not unknown for a demonic warband to construct catapults and the like, capable of flinging stones or even smaller demons clear over the walls into the waiting city beyond. It was unusual to see the shield raised unless there was an attack under way. Maybe there was. Taringal was too far away from the walls to tell, although he was drawing closer with every step. He hated to be gone from the walls for too long, even more than he hated to be near the walls. It was a messy state of mind to be in.

When he was away, he worried about an attack managing to breach the walls, and him not there to help the beleaguered defenders. But when he was near to the implacable fortress-city, he felt a consuming sadness at his isolation. He knew he could never return to the fastness of the fortress-city, knew he was destined to spend the rest of his life – however long the parasite deemed that to be – out here, looking longingly upon the brave ramparts and cold walls.

He’d also learned that he couldn’t stray too near the walls either. In the first weeks after he’d found himself out here, he’d thought of nothing but getting back inside. But his uniform was gone, and he had been forced to clothe himself in the garments of foes he’d slain. All that he had of his old life was his memories and his sword. After weeks of travelling – and fighting – his way back to the fortress-city, he’d rushed to the nearest gate, calling out to the guards to open the gate, calling out his name and begging entry. They’d opened fire.

His demonically enhanced reactions had saved him from the worst of the bolts that had been loosed at him, but one punched through the flesh of his left arm. Again he cried out to the guards “It’s me! Taringal Carter! I’m human! Please, open the gate!” This time, arrows had thudded into the earth around him. He fell back out of bowshot, still pleading with them, trying to explain. Nothing had answered his cries but more arrows, and the clanking sound of one of the walls ballista’s being wound and loaded. He’d retreated to the treeline, wounded in body and soul. He couldn’t go home. He was out here, alone, and he couldn’t go home.

Since then he’d stayed largely out of sight of the watchful eyes of the fortress-city’s wall guards. He hunted through the old town, the forests, and the outskirts of the wild that surrounded this bastion of humanity, killing what he could. Once already he had scuppered a warbands plans to lay siege to the very gate that had wounded him. He could not return home, and his former comrades would kill him on sight given the chance, but he could still help to keep the fortress-city safe. He could still keep those oaths he swore before accepting his sword and joining the warrior cadre as a full warrior.

Judging from the towers and the shimmer of the shield, he was no more than half a dozen miles from the fortress-city, and he was close to one of his lairs. Although since his infestation by the parasite he needed little sleep or rest, and no shelter from the ravages of the elements, he still felt he needed somewhere to take what little rest he did need. Somewhere to almost call home. To that end he had several lairs around the fortress-city. Most of them contained spare clothes, weapons, armour, and various other necessities for one man fighting an unending war. One of those little sanctuaries was nearby, and he headed towards it.

From outside it was unnoticeable. A tree stump, a good metre in diameter nestled amongst a score of smaller trees that had sprung up around it. In truth, the stump was false, constructed of steel and plastics, mimicking the original stump so closely as to be indistinguishable. He paused for a moment beside it, reaching out with his feelings and his ears for anything nearby. There was nothing that could see him, so he reached down and released a concealed catch, then lifted the stump on a concealed hinge. It would take three or four of the fortress-city’s defenders to lift it, but he managed it with little more than a grunt before dropping into the darkness below. The stump dropped back into place behind him.

Below was darkness, with the smell of dry stone, almost tomb like. His eyes adjusted quickly, and in moments he could see as clearly in the pitch dark as he had in the daylight above. Still, the human part of him made him light the two lamps that hung from the ceiling. The warm glow of the lamps illuminated the lair, revealing it to be a stone cavern the size of a good-sized house in the fortress-city. Scattered racks and shelves held various weapons, vials, pieces of clothing and armour, and maps. IN the far corner was a large pallet of blankets that served as his bed.

The cavern hadn’t always been his lair – he’d killed a scheming demon and his vampiric underlings for it several years ago, halting their repeated night-time assaults on the walls of the fortress-city. It was a good lair – no leaks, and secure from unwanted visitors. And every visitor was unwanted out here.

He shrugged off his dark, bloodstained coat, letting it fall to the floor, and made his way to a cracked washbasin near the bed. He half-filled it with water from a flask that sat next to it and scrubbed the dried gores from his hands and arms. The water was a murky red by the time he finished, but he took no time to empty it. Moving to one of the racks, he lifted a segmented breastplate from its hooks. Made of a dark metal, the armour was made of five overlapping plates which allowed him freedom of movement whilst still offering solid protection – it had been taken from another killed foe. Dropping it on his shoulders he fastened the leather straps before pulling on a slightly larger coat than the one he’d taken off. Extinguishing the lamps, he moved back to the entrance. Iron rungs set in the wall made a ladder leading up to the stump. He paused, one foot on the first rung, then moved over to one of the shelves and snatching up a sheathed boot knife. After strapping it to his leg, he climbed the ladder, and opened the concealed hatch.

Weak daylight spilled down through the opening for a few moments as he left, then darkness rushed back as the hatch fell closed.

The beast stood tall, about seven foot tall to be exact, his fangs were the size of my hand and I could smell his horrific breath in the air. The carcass of a vampire lay torn to shreds in front of us. Was it a werewolf? Was it just some kind of demon on four legs? The thoughts rushed through my mind but before I could even think about the answers he lunged forward at my right flank, his huge mouth crashing down on top of the soldiers head, swallowing it whole. His headless body dropped at my side. Instantly I took out my Katana and swung for its throat. I missed him as he shifted his weight. Swinging my arm behind me the razor sharp sword connected with his body and its piercing yelp cut through me.

I stepped back into an attack position and tried to block out the screams of my soldiers and the roar of the beast. Suddenly one of my soldiers attacked, charging at the beast with an axe. I really don’t think he heard me scream “NO” or “Fall back” before the beast rose onto his back legs and came down upon him pinning him to the floor. I tried desperately to attack whilst the beast was distracted but even with these new powers I was too slow. The beast ripped its claws through the chest of the soldier before I rammed my blade through his eye twisting upon entry. The beast roared and fell to the ground and I just stood there, speechless.

Having to return to Lord Omar to explain what occurred out in the Darkness cuts me deep, but nowhere near as much as it does when I return to my room and I’m finally alone. I think of the wives and mothers of these soldiers and can’t help but cry. The tears stream out of my eyes like a waterfall, cascading all over my face and pillow. Eventually I fall asleep, exhausted.

That night I dream of her, Allandra fills my thoughts. Her beautiful face glistening in early morning sun, I smell her delicate smell and it is intoxicating, she kisses me and speaks some words that I fail to hear and then her smile fades into a grimace and the sun disappears. She is now dressed in black with a veil covering her face, the sky turns stormy and I realise we are at a funeral. I notice a tear stream down her cheek and I feel a pain inside my chest as I realise that this funeral is for the two soldiers that died tonight. I look down at my hands which are dripping with crimson blood and I feel a tear trickle down my own cheek. And that’s when I realise I’m getting grabbed and dragged forward onto my knees in front of the congregation. Suddenly I hear footsteps as I realise an axe is barrelling towards me, then it’s black.

I awake, horrified.

I decide I need to relax and to cool down as I am sweating profusely. I open a big window and retrieve the herbs and pipe I was given. I sit on the window frame and feel the cool night air on my body. I shiver slightly but then enjoy the chill. I pick up the pipe and I’m not exactly sure how to do this but I did watch the older men do it and have an idea what to do. I stuff the herbs into the big round dish-like part of the pipe before putting the thin piece into my mouth, I take a candle and start to heat the herbs, right, now or never…I take a huge breath and feel my throat burn instantly, my lungs fill up quickly and then I’m coughing insanely! Once my fit has subsided I decide that maybe smaller breaths are the best way to go, so I reheat the herbs and take a tentative first breath. it didn’t burn and I didn’t cough. About five minutes later I’m slumped up against the frame of the window, a strange relaxing calm coming over me. I close my eyes and imagine waking up back home, in my bed, in my house surrounded by my family as if I was in a coma and all of this is just a dream, a horrible fucked up nightmare that my subconscious has created for me to drift through as the doctors wait patiently for a sign. I clamber into bed a little later on and fall asleep almost instantly, waking to find myself still there with all the problems that I had the day before and I smile, knowing that at least I might see her today.

Firelight reflected dully from the notched, scarred sword blade as he cleaned it as best he could with a ragged strip of cloth and a handful of water. The sword had once gleamed and held a razor edge, and been one of hundreds, if not thousands produced by the armouries smithy. It was a standard issue blade, carried by almost all of the warriors that dwelt within the safety of the Human fortress-city, single-edged and arrow straight. He remembered his first day on the wall with that blade hanging at his hip, the blade and crossguard polished so much they shone like silver in light. It didn’t shine any more.
He tossed the sodden rag into the flames and slipped the sword into its equally battered scabbard. For a moment, he allowed himself to really feel the worn leather grip. The blade felt so comfortable in his hand now that he sometimes hated it. He hadn’t ever dreamed- back in the days when he could dream – that he’d ever grow to hate his weapons. He’d been trained from childhood to use swords and a myriad other weapons, as well as his hands and feet, to defend the fortress-city, to protect himself and his people. He’d felt so proud when he walked the streets of the city in his uniform, blade at his side, crossbow in hand, and seen the envious glances of the young boys, and the pride in the eyes of the old men. Those weapons had become a symbol for what he was, what he stood for. Maybe that was why he hated them?
Making a disgusted sound in his throat, he dropped the scabbarded blade on the floor beside him, and reached for the meat roasting over the flames of his fire, skewered on a stick that protruded diagonally out over the fire. The meat was hot, and the flames hotter still, but the pain was nothing to him now, and he ignored it, sinking his teeth into the hot flesh. He didn’t need to eat, not like this, not to survive. But he wanted to. He wanted to feel the meat between his jaws, wanted the feeling of a full belly, even the taste was welcome though it was far from being tasty. He resolutely didn’t think about what meat it was he devoured. If he did, what little appetite he had would vanish, and leave him feeling nauseous besides. He’d learned early on that some of the beasts out here in the wilderness were edible, but that still didn’t make them any more palatable.
Just outside the circle of firelight he could see the beasts that had provided his meal this evening – both meals if you will. Their backs were as high as a man’s waist, and they travelled on all fours. They were known as Flesh-hounds, and some said they were the twisted offspring of Cerberi and common dogs. Whatever else they were, they were vicious, and hunted in packs, just like he’d heard the Wolves of old used to. This pack had been tracking him for days, and he had allowed them to catch up to him late that afternoon. They’d surrounded him, over twenty beasts in total, as he stood in a dip in the forest floor that was clear of trees. He waited calmly as they’d circled him, snarling and drooling, vicious feral eyes regarding him with hunger and an unnatural hate.
He’d stood calmly, hands at his side, not even watching them. He didn’t need to see them to track their movements – he could feel them. Not their heartbeats like some arrogant Nosferatu, just their very presence. He could feel, out there in the trees, the real reason he’d allowed this pack to catch him. Their alpha male, their leader, prowled around outside the ring of hounds, but to him the beast was like a beacon. That particular beast was imbued with a natural magic, some sort of unnatural blessing either occurring naturally or bestowed by a user of the dark arts for their own ends. And it’s magical essence, it’s mana was what he really wanted, really needed. His hunger had started to gnaw at him now, and he grew tired of it. That alpha male would sate his hunger, and the others would assuage his more mortal desire for a full belly.
The first of the Flesh-hounds leapt, and in a moment his sword was in his hand, laying open the beasts belly and deftly stepping aside as the creature’s momentum carried it pat him to thud heavy and unmoving on the forest floor. The others wasted no time, and leapt to attack. The sword was light in his hand, and dark, corrupt blood sprayed freely from the hounds he cut down, not one so much as touching him. These were mere distractions to him, a way to assuage the desire for violence that surged in him sometimes.
In what seemed like moments there were no attacking hounds for him to kill. His sword, hands, and coat were thick with gore, and the remnants of the pack circled him warily. This was it. This was when the alpha male would come to the fore.
A huge beast, it’s haunches shoulder-high to a man, emerged from the trees, it’s thick, spine like fur raised around it’s hackles. It eyed the man with the sword stood in the hollow with a feral malevolence, a deep snarl filling the air. It bunched its rear legs and pounced. Blade met tooth in and actinic blue flash, and the Flesh-hound landed, its paws thudding heavily on the blood-soaked ground. The blade in his hand was now missing fragments along it’s cutting edge, where it had clashed with the hounds enchanted fangs.
Again the beast charged, but this time he was ready. Enchanted teeth bit nothing but air as he whirled the blade high and drove it down into the alpha Flesh-hounds neck. The beast whimpered, then dropped to the floor as if it’s bones had suddenly vanished. The rest of the pack yelped and fled into the trees, fleeing this steel-fanged death.
He dropped to one knee beside the dead alpha hound, and placed his outstretched hand on the beasts flanks. Immediately he felt a sensation of sudden alertness inside of him, as the parasite that now called his body home awoke in the presence of mana to feed upon. Wisps of dark greasy smoke rose from between his fingers where they touched the beast, and he felt the dark power coursing through him, felt the parasitic demon inside of him drawing in the mana, revelling in it. His head swam, and a thrumming filled his ears. His eyes saw nothing as the creature took hold temporarily, dulling his human senses to the point of non existence.
Then it was done. The Flesh-hounds mana had been exhausted, and the demon was sated. He could see, and hear, and think for himself again. He was no longer a mere conduit for the parasitic demon that infested him. Once again he was Taringal Carter, former defender of the fortress-city.

The world outside my window is bustling, the people of this reality going about their daily lives, just tending to their families, doing their jobs… The smell of fresh fruit creeps through my window and fills me with a reminiscent smile, my mum used to eat fruit every morning and constantly lecture me on eating a nice breakfast to start my day. I wonder what they’re dealing with right now. I’ll find a way back, just as soon as I know what’s really going on here.

There’s a knock at the door, I hope it’s a nice cup of strong sweet tea but it’s not, just some guy delivering clothes and instructions. Apparently I’m going to be given a tour of the city today. I’d rather just see Allandra though. Oh well maybe she’ll be there at some point.

So I’ve been to two schools and I’ve seen where they grow their crops inside a massive green house.  I’ve heard that in the future they intend to increase the size of the city by building a huge extension to allow for a ‘development in society’. It’s all very official and boring and quite frankly I was getting sleepy until they explained that things are too dangerous at the moment and they couldn’t risk the safety of the general populous, then they turned to me, they asked very kindly and firmly if I
would lead a crew of their soldiers out at night to hunt, to destroy all Hellspawn that comes near the city. They feel if we thin the numbers and make them aware that we aren’t playing around they will start to disperse. I still don’t know if I can trust these guys, and it’s been one hell of a head fuck coming here. They always make these kinda revelations look easier on TV. I suppose characters sitting around pointlessly staring at the walls trying to figure it out or sobbing miserably
doesn’t make good television. Still it’d be better than that reality rubbish!

I accept the duty. In my head I’m securing the safety of somewhere to lay my head and rest and at least I can test my new powers, see if I can find the limits. And of course, the longer I’m here I may get to bask in the innocent beauty of Allandra more…

After excusing myself I begin to wander around the city, exploring it. if I’m gonna defend it I should really have an some knowledge of it. Or I think I should, being eighteen and not really brimming with real world knowledge I’m running on instinct at the moment. I watched a lot of good TV and movies in my reality, I guess I’m just trying to use those for guidance. I think I’m meant to be a hero, I think maybe I was gifted with powers and sent to these people to help them, my head hurts,
all this confusion is driving me mad. I wonder if they have medication in this reality?

Out of the corner of my eye I notice that the genius who created and designed this city put in a small swimming pool and steam room, time to relax…

Night is closing in, after a truly relaxing afternoon they provided me a welcoming banquet, we started with the freshest tastiest carrot and coriander soup I’ve ever eaten, the bread was warm and straight from the oven. I soon discover that the diet here is mostly vegetarian as they can just about manage to grow enough vegetables to feed everyone but they have no land to graze animals, they keep chickens for eggs and the whole city dines on chicken once a year to celebrate the survival
of the city and the people. I’m served an arrangement of tasty vegetables and salads and we all tuck in. I eat enough to feed an army and I sit back in my chair content that I will never starve whilst I’m here. All the men at the table pull out pipes and little bags of herb tobacco. Well that’s what they tell me, they managed to splice a tobacco plant with a herb that relaxes you. I explain about us having Marijuana and they tell me it’s sort of like that. I’m presented with my own pipe and a bag of leaves and buds, they advise it’s probably not a good idea for me to participate before I go on duty but I should keep it and enjoy it when I return to the city, apparently its tradition for the men to smoke after dinner.

Once I’ve digested I’m taken to the armoury where I’m allowed to tool myself up. I take a dagger that’s tucked into my boot, a katana sword which hangs by my side and a hand axe which I carry. I’m told that they are selecting a task force to accompany me in the future but for now I have 3 men in my company and we will just be going out tonight to get an idea of what it means to go out there in the darkness and how much of a battle were gonna have on our hands.

Me and the guys are led the into the bowels of the city and shown a secret entrance – a tunnel that reminds me of the sewers on Buffy – it will take us out into the middle of old town, the town I was growing up in a hundred years ago. I barely recognise a lot of it but its infested, were going to exterminate and we are going to do it brutally, that’s what these people who have cared for me and guided me want and that’s how I will repay them, no non-human we come in contact with is to
be allowed to stay breathing! not that all of them need to breathe to survive but you get the idea, We set off into the darkness with cheap versions of the olympic torch to guide us, I feel like Indiana Jones but the guys wouldn’t know who that was so I can’t exactly explain it to them. They’re pretty non-verbal though anyway. Shit! None of these people have ever seen
Star Wars! That’s so weird!

Nerves are running high, I can sense it among them. I’m pretty nervous too; I don’t want their blood on my hands, I don’t wanna explain that one of my company got disembowelled or something equally as nasty. Gotta stay focused, gotta stay strong, gotta be ready, feel no fear, feel no pain…

The tunnel comes to an end and we all climb up through the manhole. I go first, I help them all out and soon realise when I clock their faces, they’re terrified by what they’ve seen…

The minute I realise I’m surrounded, they all start screaming at me, “Get down on the floor…drop your weapon” come the cries over and over again, but I won’t. I feel serene, I feel totally at ease. I block out the voices and realise there’s only four of them, a little older than me. I’ve fought demons of Hell and vampires for three days and nights straight; four humans don’t scare me, just as I decide to make a move I guess they lose patience ‘cause I feel a bolt from a crossbow lodge itself in my shoulder. I couldn’t hear the release mechanism of the weapon ‘cause of all their screaming and shouting but I spring into action. I drop low and sweep the legs of the guy with the crossbow, suprised another guy comes towards me and I swing my body up and around and catch him with the back of my hand knocking him out. I then spin my body round delivering a high kick to the third guys jaw disabling him and I point my sword to the throat of the guy with the crossbow as he tries to get up and suddenly…

I’m face to face with a girl. Her fragrance fills my nostrils and I lose all concentration, I’m totally taken in by her, I lower my weapon and allow her to completely throw me off track. I disappear in her beautiful eyes and all of a sudden I feel pain in the back of my head and I’m sleepy…

I awake – I’m really getting sick of waking up in unfamiliar environments – and I’m lying in a four poster bed in a plush and regal room. Silk sheets and I’m clean and I can smell that she has been here. My knowledge of cultures isn’t what it should be but I get a sense that my room is decorated with pieces of furniture and art from across the globe. I climb out of bed wondering why I’m not in a cell, I thought I’d be a prisoner, they didn’t seem to friendly when they knocked me out and brought me here but here I am, living in luxury without even the slightest mention of a bar on a window.

I hear footsteps approaching way before the sound of the door opening, and I turn to greet the visitors; a greying older man is first through the door, dressed head to toe in white robes he has an heir of authority and calmness to him. He is followed by two big muscled men dressed in identical black and grey uniforms and they kinda remind me of the Kingpin from Daredevil, I get the feeling they’re the muscle. Finally she enters. I could sense her radiant glow way before I’d even realised who was in the room. She almost glides in, so graceful and poised, so pretty and calming. She smiles at me before taking her place in the assembly before me.

I stutter a “Hello” before realising I need to focus. I can’t lose myself in her warmth just yet. The man in white replies with “Greetings” and “take a seat” I perch myself on the bed and begin to listen as he speaks…

“how are you feeling? You gave us quite the shock, taking out three of our decorated soldiers so easily before we could get a grip of things” He smiles “Quite the warrior you are. Oh sorry, such bad manners I have! I am Lord Benact Omar, Patriarch of the City Council. Anything you need I can get you. Please excuse my lack of respect in greeting you, but the whole city is a abuzz since your arrival,  and I’m ashamed to admit that I let myself get caught up in it. I’m sure you have lots of questions about this place and why your here and frankly we do to; you’re only the second human to have been found alive outside the city walls in over a hundred years, along with our beautiful Allandra over here who we rescued a week ago. If you’d like to follow me, we have some people who would like to talk to you and hopefully we can try to understand this situation a bit more…”

And with that he turned and made his way to the door and we all followed…

I find myself sitting in a little courtyard, the sun is starting to set, flowers bloom all around me and it really is a beautiful place. The palace is cut into the mountain and I get a sense of Helms Deep but grander. The mountain provides the back wall and it has been painted to look more comforting and cosy. I’m totally blown away from what I have heard today. It turns out that in this dimension demons, vampires, werewolves and all the things I was ever taught to believe weren’t real, well they all exist. They always have done and they have always been at war with the humans. It’s a lot to take in y’know, it’s like living in an role playing game or something. What’s more, this is my old hometown, this dimension is 100 years in the future, and there was a great war between the humans who had evolved at the same rate our dimension did but they did it whilst
battling the forces of darkness. The demons began to overthrow the humans and the humans retreated, using magics to hold off the demons until they had built a fortress around a city, my city. Once inside they were seen as no harm to the demon population who guarded the wasteland around the city picking off any who dared go outside. Once inside the stronghold the humans thrived and began a whole new way of life, they have an army although not to grand in numbers, they are trained as the spartans were trained in my dimension. They have Lord Omar who is kinda like the pope from what I can gather although I get an ominous feeling that people do not know the truth about him. They have schools and they train select students to be defenders of the fortress-city whilst others learn witchcraft and magic alongside their normal studies. Then there’s Allandra, they found her in the wasteland a week ago, the army who were patrolling the wasteland for demons spotted great magical volts of electricity illuminating a clearing in the forest and when they went to see what was happening Allandra was fighting off a gang of assorted demons who wanted her blood. I asked more about her, I asked when I could see her again and they were very elusive with their answers. I could do with her warmth right now. I have a meeting in the morning, I best make my way to bed, it’s been a long day…

As I lay on my back cowering behind the sofa I’d just leapt over, I know I should be thinking about the fight. But all I can think to myself is “Why me?”. A week ago I was a normal eighteen year old boy living my dull boring life. Today I’m the same eighteen year old boy living in an alternate dimension and I have super powers!

I dodge the downward blow from the Dracahandra demon that chased me into the house – hang on, how do I know this demons name? – and I use my body weight to spin and take off his head with my sword. I need to sit down, I need to gather my thoughts, I need to find a safe place to shelter…

Moving through the shadows I try to recollect the events of the past few days. I woke up disorientated in a graveyard which was freaky enough except that my body had developed. Stronger, faster, quicker, leaner. I found that I was quite the warrior too – beheading that vampire that was sneaking up on me expecting a quick meal.

I’ve spent the last three days being chased all over town by what I can only imagine are all the demons from all the mythology’s of the world which is also freaky ‘cause I seem to have knowledge of them, these things that I’ve never seen before or could have ever dreamed up. I have names for not all of them, just some. Just to totally ram home how freaky this all is, I’m living in my old hometown, or at least a version of my hometown. It’s the same, only mutated in places, mountains and dense forests have appeared which in turn bring cave formations that run miles underground, entire new parts to the town have appeared including castles and other crazy things, and I get the ominous feeling that there is no escape, life outside of my mutated hometown is unreachable…

I come to a clearing of buildings a road runs right through the centre of a forest, I haven’t seemed to have had much luck in this portion of town, if I can make it through the woods maybe i can find somewhere to permanently set up shelter on the other side, somewhere I can call home. I use my enhanced senses to listen to the night, the humans are close I can feel it, this part of town is graveyards and abandoned buildings, no people here just demons and vampires and mystical darkness, I can smell humans though and I get the feeling they’re close, I slowly and quietly make my way through the tress veering off the road, the sweet smell of sweat and fear guides me through the darkness until I find a camp site with a burning fire where I rest my weary bones and warm myself up. I suppose I should wait for the inhabitants to return.

The night is cold, I continue to build the fire but my hope of human visitors is slipping away from me. I can’t understand this place, I can’t understand why I’m here, why I’ve been given these special powers and why on earth I have this patchy knowledge of what’s happening around me. I know I’m in an alternative dimension. I know this place is full of demons and Hellspawn and I know or at least have a feeling inside my gut telling me that I’m here for a purpose. I just don’t know what that purpose is. the sun will be up soon and that will make travelling safer. I can’t travel forever though. I need a place to live, I need somewhere I can secure and I can make my own but these past few days have been like something out of a comic book or some ill-conceived film. I barely have any clothes on just some rags that cover my decency, I’m in a right mess…

Suddenly…

I smell the smell, I smell fear mixed with sweat, I smell blood mixed with dirt, I smell a girl, that smell is so divine…

I close my eyes trying to dwell on the scent of the girl, I block out all my other senses so that I can follow the fragrance, when you’re surrounded by the stench of death, a fragrance so wonderfully feminine, so pretty and delicate can really transport you to another place.

Slowly I open eyes and that’s when I realise I’m surrounded…

Introduction

June 2, 2010

So, quite some time ago Steve suggested that we start writing a serialised novel together. I happily agreed, as I love to write and working with Steve is always fun and productive. This was back in the days of MySPace being the social networking tool, and he wanted to publish it on a MySpace page he’d set up specially every two weeks. Well, we got three part done before other projects diverted our attention and this project was put on hold indefinitely.

Then last week Steve started re-reading what we’d done, and was inspired to get it running again. After dropping me a message, there are three new parts written and published on the MySpace page. But since MySpace has fallen out of favour and really isn’t designed for reading large blocks of text, I suggested we transfer the publishing of it to WordPress!

So here we are…