[an error occurred while processing this directive] Note From Author

For those that somehow missed it, I have decided to call Alys Sharon Ashley by her middle name as of Chapter 10. I have done this so you don't confuse her with Alys Brangwin. Don't worry, though, she's still the same girl. Have fun reading.

Chapter Ten

Chaz walked around his room. He had taken Jayce to the local authorities for holding. The magistrate had simply turned Jayce loose. The locals had no jurisdiction in hunter/guardian affairs. Jayce was basically a free man. Chaz was sure he would see Jayce again.

Chaz heard footsteps coming down the hall of the hotel. He turned toward the door and drew his sword. When the door opened, Rika entered. She was followed by Orus.

"And I thought you were wound tight before all this started," stated Rika.

Chaz sheathed his sword. He was still angry about recent events.

"Dad, is any of what Jayce said true?"

Rika turned to face Orus. Shock was present in her face. Chaz simply lowered his head.

"No. Not entirely. When I was about twelve, I lived on the streets of Kueri. I stole food and money on more than one occasion. One night I was passing by this house when it burst into flames. Without thinking I tried to run inside to see if I could help. I couldn't get near the house. The flames were to hot. As I backed away, a boy a little older than me started yelling. He was yelling 'murderer' and pointing at me. I ran as fast as I could and was caught. Heh, guilt by location ."

Orus and Rika both stared at Chaz with patience. They knew this story was bringing bad memories and feelings back. They waited as Chaz drew strength enough to continue.

"I spent a few days in jail. I was accused of arson and two counts of murder. It was never determined what started the fire. If found guilty, I would be given the death sentence. The boy that accused me had lost his parents in that fire. Through t he course of the trial I found out his name was Jayce Dazzak. He blamed me with everything within him. I remember the burning hatred in his eyes. I guess he needed someone to blame for his loss. Well, anyway, just as the tribunal was about to pass sentence, I disappeared. Next thing I knew I was in a field outside of town. Alys Brangwin was standing in front of me. She explained that she had saved me for a higher purpose and knew that I was innocent. I spent that moment on trying to repay her kindness by training hard and being as loyal as a person could be. I think, after a while, she thought of me as a little brother."

Rika walked over to Chaz and gingerly took his hand. As she looked into his eyes, she thought he was going to break down and cry.

"We can expect to see Jayce again," Chaz stated. "He'll keep coming until he gets the justice he's seeking."

"He won't quit until you or he is dead, will he," Orus asked.

Chaz nodded.

* * * * *

She opened her eyes and then quickly shut them tight. The chemicals in the nutrient bath burned tremendously. The blue green gel that her body floated in was warm and thick. When she realized she was submersed, her hand flew to her face. There, over her mouth and nose, she found a mask that was providing her with breathable air.

She tried to swim up to the surface only to have her head hit something solid. She felt along the object. It was smooth and artificial. Her fingers found a corner that angled straight down. The wall she felt formed a circle around her. She was in some kind of cylinder.

A single click-thud was heard. In the gel the sound slammed into her head. Suddenly the liquid began to drain away. As the gel drained, the cylinder wall slid down. Her feet found the bottom of the cylinder. When the gel had drained below her head, she removed the mask and tried opening her eyes once more.

The first thing she saw was a blur. As things slowly came into focus, she could make out some machines. What caught her attention, though, was the sight of a young woman. She had definitely never seen this girl before but, she seemed so familiar.

"Who are you, child?"

"First, don't let my age fool you. I am a warrior. And to avoid confusion, you may call me Sharon. What's the last thing you remember?"

She thought for a few minutes.

"I was in a bed. Chaz was leaning over me. He was crying. I told him goodbye. Then, nothing until this jar. Am I dead? Is this . . ?"

"No. But you did die. Thanks to a friend and some ancient technology, we cloned you a new body and copied your memories to it."

Alys Brangwin stared at the girl in disbelief. Surely this was some kind of trick. The dead were dead. Yet, here she stood. She was breathing and talking, and the dead surely don't.

"So, am I a copy of Alys Brangwin or am I her reborn?"

"Both, I guess. Your new body is a clone and your memories were transferred. I guess you can call yourself the original spirit in a new body."

It was at this point that Alys looked at her new body and realized that she was without clothing. She did not try to cover herself. She had been floating in that stuff for an unknown amount of time. Sharon and any others present had already seen her body.

A robe landed a few inches away from Alys's left foot. When she turned to see who had thrown the garment, she saw Rune standing there. His hair was streaked with silver and the crow's feet around his eyes were more pronounced. Alys quickly picked up the robe, threw it on, and ran to embrace her friend.

"Rune, you look so much older. How long have I been dead?"

"Twenty years, Alys. A lot has changed."

"Where's Chaz?"

"He's on Motavia in Zema. He and Rika are trying to get back into Birth Valley.?"

"Rika's still around? You have got to tell me everything. If I'm going to come back from the dead, I at least want to know about the living."

"We'll tell you on the way back to Motavia. First, let me introduce Alys Sharon Ashley, Chaz's daughter."

"Chaz started a family. Who's his wife?"

"Rika," Sharon interrupted. "Rika is my mother. I also have a brother named Orus. You'll meet him later. Alys, there is another reason you were brought back. We need your help."

* * * * *

Hahn, Niya, and Kyra stood in defensive positions. Their backs were to one another and weapons were in hand. Noises could be heard all around them. Unseen creatures skittered across the cave floor. The creatures sounded large and hungry.

Hahn took a cautious step towards the noises. The tunnel was still fairly dark, even with the chemical light. He could not see what was making the noise.

Suddenly, Hahn was struck by something hard enough to get slammed into the tunnel wall. He felt one of his ribs break.

"What the hell hit me," he gasped.

Niya quickly scanned the passage. She could see nothing.

"We're in deep trouble, now," Kyra said. "We can't see them, but they can see us."

"Run," Niya shouted.

Hahn scrambled to his feet and chased after the others. He could feel the broken ends of his rib grinding together. If he didn't take care of it soon, he ran the risk of doing some severe damage.

The trio scurried past dilapidated machines and junk. The sounds of their pursuers were never too far behind. The constant skitter-click noises was deafening in the tunnel.

"Enough," exclaimed Niya. She halted in her tracks and spun to face the creatures chasing her. With sword in hand, she prepared to make what could be her final stand. Hahn and Kyra timidly stepped up beside her. Each gave the other a look that expressed the moment. This type of moment had a name. It was "goodbye."

As the sound got closer, Niya picked one noise and sighted in on it. "NAFOI," she shouted. The energy leapt from her hands and flew straight to her enemy. For a moment, she thought she had stuck dead center. The light of the NAFOI seemed to pass around its target.

"They're immune to energy attacks," Hahn stated.

"Then we do it the hard way," Niya declared.

They all attacked the sounds. They did not dare use another spell for fear of draining valuable energy. The swung their weapons at invisible foes. Occasionally, blood would squirt from what appeared to be mid air.

The trio took several hits through out the battle. They cast NARES spells often. Fighting blind was something they were all going to have to work on. If they survived.

Suddenly, the fight stopped. A loud noise at the end of the tunnel from which Hahn, Niya, and Kyra hd come. It was a heavy, metallic thud. It was followed by several smaller thuds that drew closer.

A bright flash lit the tunnel for a moment. Blood and guts erupted form one of the invisible creatures. The rest quickly scattered.

"We could have avoided this had you waited for me."

The cool, even voice was unmistakable. Wren had followed the trio. Though he appeared to be unconcerned with the situation, he was no less welcome.

Hahn drank some trimate. The liquid burned his throat as it went down. He walked over to where the invisible enemy had fallen. More of the creature was visible, now. He examined the body part to determine why it could not be seen.

"Shall we proceed further into the facility," Wren asked.

Niya and Kyra nodded an affirmative. Hahn picked up the body part he had been examining and brought it over to Wren.

"So, what do you think?"

Wren examined the object.

"It has a crystalline epidermis that refracts light around its body. That's why you couldn't see it."

"Then how did you see it," asked Niya.

"I have a built in thermal scan system. I saw its radiated heat."

"Well, that is that," Kyra stated. "Let's get going. We still need to find out what's down here."

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