The first rough draft chapter of Obsidian Sky 2!!!!!!
OBSIDIAN SKY 2
Chapter 1 – Spark
Trident kept his head low as the hot steam blew into the face of his enemy. His screams would surely alert the rest of the guard, but that was intended. His men were in place.
“Alright, that’s enough. Shut him up,” Trident ordered. He couldn’t see who moved forward in the pitch black, but two seconds later, the man’s screams were cut short. Silence hung over them like a vengeful ghost, waiting to point out their location at the slightest utterance.
Trident could hear his head pounding and his blood pumping. He breathed as shallow as possible, waiting for their enemy to strike. After a few minutes passed, he knew something was wrong.
He stretched out his neck and decided to take the bait, crouch-walking past the corner of the hallway he had hidden behind and moved forward. He could hear a few of his men following close by. They were keeping their distance, making sure he didn’t accidentally kill them if he felt the need to attack.
Suddenly he was met with a blinding light. He grit his teeth and tried to see through the searing hot white beam, but it enveloped the entire room. He felt like he was staring at the sun.
“Someone kill the lights!” he roared. He didn’t hear any movement. “Hey, who’s on blackout duty?”
“I wish they could hear you,” a melancholy voice uttered in the distance. “That would mean they’re still alive. That would mean there was more time to play.”
Trident felt no fear. His men were trained well, in particular to take out those with Yen. They had overcome impossible odds and had never a casualty. A rare occurrence in this world, for sure, but the truth nonetheless.
Trident smirked as he reached behind him and procured the small spear on his back. Once he brought it to the forefront, he willed for it to extend and it grew by two feet. He whispered into its metaphorical ear, “Kill him.”
The trident wrestled from his grip and then took off into the light. The room was suddenly cast back into pitch black, but it was futile. His spear would find its mark. In the distance he heard a whooshing sound, and then a guttural cry. A body fell in a slump on the floor.
Trident still kept his position secure, looking out for unseen threats, and waiting for his spear to return, but it didn’t. Right as he was about to call out to it, he heard a chuckle in front of him, only a few yards away.
“Oh, that was interesting.”
Trident scowled. It was the same voice from earlier.
“If you’re wondering what just happened, your spear indeed found its prey, but I’m afraid it wasn’t what you were looking for.”
Trident scowled again. What was he talking about? Did he use a Yen to preserve his life?
“I put a…cohort of mine in front of me, and I put a large amount of my blood over him. Seems the spear liked him more than the real thing.
“Did you know I was coming?” Trident called out. He knew he was taking a risk, giving away his position, but it felt like he had already walked into a trap. Where was his men?!
“Not at all, but I was able to identify you right away.”
“Nope. I have other ways. Yen are like investments. You never really use them. You just let it sit and endure the ebb and flow of life.”
“Where are my men?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I wouldn’t believe me either, but I suppose seeing is believing, right?” The lights came back on, but they were dimmer than before. Trident saw the man who was talking first—a silhouette that stayed just out of visibility. Before him, were a pile of familiar corpses, piled on top of one another with all of their faces looking right at Trident.
He clenched his jaw tight as he examined the disfigured faces. Whatever they endured, it had been agonizing, but when? At least half of them had been behind him and then they just disappeared.
“Trident…I want you to know that I highly respect you,” the man said. Trident slowly raised his eyes to the stranger, glowering at him in insatiable rage. “And I haven’t been completely honest with you, or to put it more clearly…who I sent wasn’t completely honest with you. I knew that if your Slayers heard that a piece of the Choate was here, you would spare no expense in retrieving it. Well, that’s a lie. There is no Choate here. I’m sorry.”
“Then why I have been…called.”
A wide toothy smile erupted on the man’s face in the darkness. “Because you are a survivor of this world, and I’ve run out of toys. Boredom is the enemy of greatness, and he has been winning this race for as long as I can remember. It is time that I, like you, make my mark on the world.”
“Ah I see. You want to become an Omega or something…someone the world looks up to and reveres. What’s the point? You’ll only bring attention to yourself, and others will come to take you down.”
“If you wanted to test your abilities, you could have hired us directly. You didn’t have to kill my men.”
“Oh, but that’s not the way the world works. One has to be careful these days.”
“You’re right. It’s foolish to show yourself to an enemy.” Trident took one step back and then leapt over the pile of corpses, refusing to look at them anymore. As long as he avenged them, then their deaths wouldn’t be in vain. He owed them that much.
But at one point, he took his eyes off the silhouette. It was only for a second, but when his gaze returned, the man was gone. A little girl, about eight years old, stood before him in a frilly pink dress with strawberries on the front. Her eyes met his and she gasped in shock as he cocked back his arm to hit her.
He stopped mid-swing, and then the girl stabbed him in the stomach with a dagger. He didn’t even see it in her hands. It was the eyes…they were mesmerizing and familiar, as if he had seen her before, but who was she?
“Disappointing,” the mysterious man said as he appeared to Trident’s right. He still remained in the shadows of the facility, making sure he was right under an overhead walkway. Light shone all around him but it did not illuminate his face.
Trident turned towards the girl and she ripped the dagger from his body. The act was so sudden and violent that his knees wobbled and he stumbled backwards, trying to maintain his balance. “Who are you?” he winced as his face began to grow pale.
The silhouette smiled again. “Gamemaster.”
“I’ve never heard of you.”
“You have now, and that’s enough.”
“I don’t understand. What’s the point?”
“My point? What’s your point? Stealing to survive one more day? Getting stronger to overpower your enemies and exist a little longer to…what exactly? No, no, that is foolish. Life is to be enjoyed. Fun is to be had. You want to know my point? There is no point. That’s the point. I love games, and that’s it. I like to play a game, see if I can win, get a little rush from it, and then put the board neatly back into its box, to be forgotten until another player arrives. That’s what life is about, isn’t it?”
“Who’s the girl?”
“A decoy. I was trying to see if you would attack or not. Bravo, you have morals.”
“And you? Are you even real?”
“I’m right here, aren’t I?”
“Good,” he said, slumping up against a railing. “Good.”
“You know what’s rich,” Gamemaster chuckled. “Thinking that I don’t know that YOU’RE a decoy, and the real trident is still in this facility, watching and waiting for a moment to strike.”
The decoy Trident’s eyes closed shut as he chuckled under his breath. Now how did this stranger figure that out?
With a final sigh, his head dropped to his chest.
Gamemaster took a deep breath and walked into the light. His cloaked robe and hood kept most of his body and face concealed, but what shone through was his eyes—reptilian and small, glaring into the sudden steam that appeared in the distance. A pipe had been burst, and it had certainly not done so on its own.
“Welcome, Trident,” he said. “I was hoping we would get to play another round. I believe it’s now your turn.”
* * *
It felt as if someone had stolen a precious artifact from his home, broke it, and then apologetically returned it.
Although the memories and the physical representation was there, a strangeness had been cast over it. The vessel wasn’t a given anymore—a part of his life that would forever remain in his safety. It had been touched by uncaring hands, and handled unceremoniously. No matter how hard he tried to scrub the unclean thoughts, they lingered like unseen cobwebs in the attic of his cluttered mind.
Aidan shook his head, blinked twice, and examined her once more.
Leah was dancing, twirling around gracefully as she took the hand of one person to the next. Jin laughed as he dipped her and handed her off to Isaac, who took her in close and waltz with her as if this was not the first time. Grain laughed and slapped her knees as she sat in one of the rickety chairs the group had brought her a few days ago. Though she was happy to let the music play, she admitted that she wasn’t in the mood to dance. Based on the way her eyes shone, Aidan was sure it wouldn’t take long before she joined the display.
His eyes darted back to Leah. She was laughing heartily—her mouth wide and her lips thin as she craned her neck towards the ceiling and enraptured herself in the moment. How could this be? How could she be so happy? Did she…not feel what he felt? Or to put it better, the lack of feeling? Was it all an act?
“Hey, guys!” Isaac shouted aloud. Aidan hadn’t see him appearing beside him. “When did you get this painting?” Isaac made his hands make the shape of L’s and he pretended as if Aidan’s face was in a picture frame. “It’s so sad.”
“Get out of here,” Aidan said, swatting at him like a troubling gnat.
“It talks!” Isaac said, feigning surprise. He put a hand to his chest and gasped. “If someone was going to use a wish to make this, they could have at least made it prettier to look at.”
Aidan huffed and cast his eyes to the side. He wasn’t in the mood for games.
“Hey,” Isaac whispered, sitting down beside him. He crossed his legs and glared at Aidan until they made eye contact. “Is everything okay?”
“Where are we going after this?” Aidan asked.
Isaac winced. “It’s not like you to keep your emotions bottled up.” Aidan glanced over at the dancers. They were acting as if they hadn’t heard Isaac’s antics, but he knew they were faking. Pretending. They were always pretending.
“What is there to talk about?”
“If there’s anyone you can talk to, it’s me.”
“You’re the last person I like to talk to, period.”
“Even your insults have lost their sting,” Isaac shook his head. “What has become of you?”
“What will become of us all?” Bailey said, sitting down on Aidan’s left. Aidan rolled his eyes as he put his face into the palms of his hands. “Tallawah,” Bailey said in an endearing tone, “if you didn’t want others prying into your thoughts, you shouldn’t make them so painfully visible.”
“It’s not like I have my own private room.”
“You could go in the city and request one.”
“It’s just for a night though. Nothing permanent.”
“Occasionally, one night of clarity is all we need.”
“Aidan does bring up a good point though,” Isaac said to her. “What is next? I know we’re hanging out with Jin and Grain, but what after? I don’t know about you, but I’m used to having a warm comfy bed and rules dictated to me. I feel like the freedom will kill me.”
“No one has mentioned a particular path,” Bailey said as she turned to Aidan. “Is there anywhere you would like to go?”
“You’ve been out there,” Aidan said. “What is there to look forward to? Where could we go that we’d be safe. Even here…it’s all a matter of time.”
“He’s brooding,” Isaac said to Bailey. “It’s his thing, lately. Honestly, I think he wished for it just to piss me off. None of my jokes are hitting their mark.”
“That’s because they were never funny to begin with,” Aidan snapped. “You’re about as funny as an itch in the middle of your back that you can’t get to.”
“Aidan!” Isaac exclaimed, throwing up his hands. “You’ve come back to me!”
“Can you tell him to leave before I kill him?” Aidan muttered, bowing his head. Bailey nodded at Isaac and the blonde-haired boy stood up and wiped his hands across his shirt.
“Well…” he huffed, throwing his nose in the air. “I can tell when I’m not wanted.”
“Finally,” Aidan said as he watched Isaac cut into a dance between Grain and Elias.
“He means well,” Bailey said, chuckling under her breath.
“He’s annoying. Why does he do that?”
“Act as if the world is one big joke. If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s working with us, I would have nothing to do with him.”
“Oh, stop it,” Bailey said. “That’s not true.”
“I’m not laughing.”
“Aidan, you had a chance to leave him behind, remember? You used a Yen to save his life.”
Aidan’s eyes went wide. He had forgotten already. The events in Lowsunn felt like a dream that he had only heard of secondhand. The feats that they accomplished—they were extraordinary, but they had also resulted in sacrifices. Teller, one of his Yen as well as those given up by his friends, Leah…
“You like him,” Bailey said. “Even if you’re too proud to admit it. I know you smile on the inside when he jokes with you.”
“Is that why you had him work with me?”
“It is a balance,” she said, glancing over at Isaac. “He comes from a place that was peaceful and optimistic. He was in the sunlight, taking it all in, and suddenly he is thrust into a cold, brutal world that treats him like an object. He loses his huminity overnight, and the only way he can cope is to smile and play. To extend a hand to the child within all of us, and remind himself that the darkness only comes if he closes his eyes. He can choose to remain hopeful.”
“While I am the opposite.”
“Yes,” Bailey said, turning back to Aidan. “You live in reality, but too often we forget that reality is what we make of it. And that concept has never been more true since Advent. These Yen—” she paused to look at the three darkened seals on her right arm—all of them baring the seal of the Judge, six organ pipes with a sword in the middle. “These Yen are the catalyst to a brighter future and a better tomorrow for all of us.”
“It’s no different than the past,” Aidan said. “Before Advent, there were stories of war and violence. Great weapons with destructive power. Nations would build their armaments. How are these Yen any different? We’re afraid to use them because we know that whatever life we wish for…it can all be taken away, and we’d be worse off.”
“Is that so?” Bailey said, cupping her chin. “Hmm, I never thought of it that way.”
“Stop lying. You’re about to knock me over the head with wisdom.”
“It is my gift.”
“And you didn’t even have to wish for it.”
“People always want more. It is part of our nature. But we channel our desires wrong. We want the end goal, but we don’t want the long, arduous journey. We should seek a happy life, even if it is eventually taken away, because then we will have wonderful memories to sustain us, stories to uplift others, and a goal to seek out once more. Even if we had lost something precious, it doesn’t mean we can’t find it again. Look at her.”
Aidan cast his eyes towards Leah and pursed his lips. She was gorgeous—he couldn’t deny it. Still…it was like looking at the ocean from the shore. It was quite a sight, but it wasn’t what he had before. It was as if someone had taken the depths he had known out of him. He had metaphorically seen the ocean’s bottom, observed the intricate details of the rivers embedded in the sea, watched in awe as the oceanic volcanoes erupted or watched a school of fish dance in the currents. He had seen and felt and heard things that no one else had, and now he was back on the shore, with only his memories to satiate him.
It was cruel.
“I didn’t say who ‘her’ was,” Bailey replied.
Aidan glanced at his teacher and scowled. “Of course, you meant Leah.”
“I said her. I didn’t say Leah.”
“Who else could you have been talking about?”
“Look at Makana,” she ordered, and he did. “Isn’t she lovely?”
“Yes,” Aidan said immediately. There was no denying it. Makana embodied the balance between strength and beauty. Though her face was hardened, he noticed it wasn’t because of scars of years of battle. It was because she forced it to be that way. Perhaps to divert attention away from the softness in her eyes or her unmarked skin. Regardless, she was easily the prettiest girl in the room. But there was still something about her that didn’t draw him in. It was as if an invisible wall was placed between them, and his heart was unable to see over to the other side.
“Why don’t you try talking to her?” Bailey asked.
“You mean as if I was interested in her? Like that?”
“Why would I do that?”
“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?”
“Then why not?”
“Because…I don’t know. I just don’t want to.”
“You’re telling me that a man of passion like yourself doesn’t want to at least try to get such a magnificent creature to notice him?”
“I’m not interested.”
“And that’s exactly why you should quit your brooding.”
“Are we all going to use that word now? Brooding?”
“You and Leah still have a connection,” Bailey said, ignoring his question. “Yes, a lot was taken away, but it’s not completely gone. It’s not like you have amnesia. Your memories are all there, and there is a feeling, deep down inside, that still links to her. You may not want to actively seek Leah out, but you do know that you’re not interested in another. Isn’t that enough to have hope?”
“I live in the real world. I know what happened.”
“There are some things that even the Judge cannot change. There are dimensions and depths to a person that cannot be altered. Even if we should die, our words and deeds live on in those we leave behind, and as long as we live, there are even more chances to rewrite our destiny.”
“So, my happy ending with Leah isn’t lost.”
“Not at all.”
“I think you’re right.”
“I’m pleased to hear you say that.”
“You know,” Aidan said, “I thought about using my last Yen to restore the connection, but it was only once. I remember thinking that if we wanted it, we could have it all over again. The question is, what happens if someone takes it away a second time? A third? A fourth?”
“Isn’t that a relationship anyways?” Bailey asked. “Losing and finding each other to grow?”
“It just so happens that in this strange world; our process is a little more extreme.”
“I hear that,” Aidan chuckled.
Bailey smiled and wrapped an arm around her protégé. “We will find what we are looking for.”
“And what is Isaac looking for?” Aidan asked. Bailey glanced up at the playful boy trying to pretend roundhouse kick Makana. She remained standing up against the wall with her arms crossed, appearing as if she was to fall asleep at any moment.
“Hell, if I know,” Bailey laughed.