Chapter 1

Blood On A Rose

Doble was a calm and quiet town. In Doble, the streets are paved with a gray cobblestone, and the houses are made of mostly wood and brick. In the day, the buzz of townsfolk fills the air as the marketplace is alive with chatter. Doble was built at the base of Mt. Keffner and was known for its rock quarries and mines. Mt. Keffner being part of the Base Mountain Range is one of the tallest mountains in Avalon. Many tourists come to climb the great mountain, and many fail. Atop Mt. Keffner the weather patterns are erratic; blizzards coming and going every minute sending climbers spiraling down the mountain side. And if one was to survive the incredible winds, there was the blinding cold. A cold so deep your bones feel as if they're beginning to freeze. Aside from its chaotic neighbor, Doble is otherwise surrounded by luscious planes. Even from the highest building it is tough to see much more than the wild rolling hills. Besides the occasional tree, those green hills and dirt roads that split them were all the townsfolk knew. Not many traveled outside the city for those who did never seemed to come back. Whether it was the demons that kept them away, or the lull of wealth and adventure, it seemed that Doble's demon problem was getting worse. Like most smaller towns, demons paid a regular visit. Every so often people disappear in the night. No one walks the streets alone anymore. It seems impossible to predict when a demon will attack.
I was walking solemnly down the dark road towards the cemetery, it wasn’t quite night, but sunset had already past and the air was beginning to cool. It was winter again. Another year had passed since the death of my parents. On this day, the sixth of Oighear, I walk to the cemetery and place a rose down upon each of my parents’ graves. It’s going to be a cold winter. I thought to myself as I quickened my pace. I looked up and saw the bright moon surrounded by stars with not a cloud to be seen. I sighed. How many times was it now? Eight? Eight years since my parents passed. I can’t even imagine living with them anymore. They’re such a blur now, like a distant memory. I don’t know why I bring a rose for each Mother and Father every year. At first it helped with the depression. I would talk to them standing above their graves. I guess now I just do this for routine. I lowered my head back down to look at the gates of the cemetery. The old black metal gates always seem to send a chill up my spine. They creaked at any motion, no matter how small, rust had crept into their veins and no one cared enough to see to it. Some people say that going out into a cemetery at night is bad luck, but I had no choice. I had a busy day today and had forgotten to set time aside to visit the graveyard.

As I walked on I noticed that nightfall rapidly approached. There were few others on the streets, no one walked at night, it was suicide. I looked to my left to see an elderly man close the window in his house, then the curtains. Why do we have to live in so much fear? Why can't the demons just go back to where they belong? After a few more moments I noticed I was the only person outside. What are the odds right? That a demon attacks the night I'm late? No, nothing's going to happen. I reassure myself and keep going. I pushed through the rusty gates and cringe at the noise. Why doesn't anyone fix that? I wandered the dirt trail to the spot where my parents were buried. I looked down to the old stone slabs. With hardly coin to my name I was not able to pay for any engravings. The only way I told them apart was that Mothers' had a small chip and a crack running down the left side. Mom, I wish I had more words. My memories of you become foggier every day, but I miss you. And Dad, you would be so proud. I've grown up well. A strong and healthy role model to the younglings. You rest in peace. I leaned down and placed a rose on Mother’s grave, then on Father’s.

Every year the words I have to say become fewer, soon I doubt I'll have much to say at all. When I got up from my crouched position I felt a chill, like a small gust of wind blow past me. A sharp crack rang from behind me but before I had the chance to turn my head, a sharp pain jolted through my right shoulder. I fell to my knees and looked to my right. A long piece of black metal had pierced my shoulder and was enveloped in blood. My arm went numb. Thick blood ran down the short sleeves of my tunic, making it cling to my sides. I screamed in pain. Before I could stop myself I reached over with my left arm and pulled the pole from my flesh. But as soon as the metal was freed the blood poured faster. I tossed the metal to the side. Clutching my shoulder with my good arm, I found the strength to stand and turn to face who had done this to me. Though my vision was fuzzy I could make out a dark blue demon with piercing yellow topaz eyes towering over me, grinning wickedly. He was covered in a mangy black cloak with a hood over his head. His terrifying claws shot out of the ends of his tattered sleeves. In a blink of an eye he thrust his arm out at me, putting a strangle hold on my neck. Lifting me into the air with ease he laughed.

“Out for a stroll?” He snickered as he lifted me over a foot off the ground, “Why don’t you accompany me so I can make sure you’re not in harm's way.” I tried to struggle, but with the loss of blood the strangling had a quick effect. I began to gasp for air. This was it, I was doomed. Doomed to die the way my parents had, by the hands of this demon. Doomed to have my last sight his face; twisted in a wicked smile. He ran his tongue across the top row of his teeth and threw me aside. I flew through a thin tree sending dead wood and bark to scatter amongst the ground as I flailed through the air. Something felt broken. But was it my ribs or my spine? I couldn't tell. In an instant he was hovering over me, while I was still in mid-air. He laughed and walloped my stomach so hard that when I hit the ground small cracks in the earth surrounded me. Oh yeah, definitely my ribs. I inclined my head and gasped for air. The wound in my shoulder was nothing now compared to the broken ribs I most surely had. He raised his left arm up into the starry sky, brandishing his claws. In a flash they came down upon me. I flinched and closed my eyes, waiting for death to come. But when it didn’t I looked over to see his claws inches away from my head, struck into the ground. “Scared?” He taunted. Adrenaline pumped through my veins so fast I couldn't see straight. The pain was gone; nothing was left but the will to survive. Before the demon had time to blink I saw the metal pole that had pierced my shoulder earlier. I took the twisted pole with my good arm stuck it into the demons' opened crooked mouth as hard as I could. The laughter from his eyes fell to be replaced by shock. The pole had punctured completely through the back of his throat and out the back of his neck. Blood burst out from the wound, engulfing me in a black mist. It fell into my shoulder, burning my flesh like wildfire as it seeped into my muscles and opened veins. I let out another wail and decided to run before the creature had time to recover. I clutched my shoulder as I hobbled away in fear. I was fumbling over rocks and cracks in the ground. Everything ached and the gates seemed so far away, but it seemed to be getting easier as I hobbled on. I pushed through the gates, making a gut wrenching sound, and continued down the street. I ran beyond several buildings and houses, trying to put as much distance between me and the cemetery as possible without leading him to my home.

How had this happened? I’ve been taking precautions to avoid demons since the death of my parents. I even paid an elder to put a seal on my room to prevent any kind of demon from entering, not even messenger imps could enter. Someone must have told him about how I go to the cemetery every year. But, only one other person knew about that…Áedán. My best friend. Could he have betrayed me? I saw him now; staring at me not far off as I stumbled and fell to the ground, unable to run anymore. I lay there and panted. My breaths were sharp and hard. Worry struck across my face. I could feel sharp pain emitting from my bones as they shifted. What is this?! I writhed on the ground in agony. Unaware that what was about to happen would change everything.
I watched as his eyes boiled over to fire. Once blue and full of life, the color surrounding his pupils were now stained pure red. Nothing less. It seemed as if minutes, maybe hours had passed but it had only been a few seconds. The change was half complete. Every one of his teeth grew and sharpened into canines. Razor sharp like a shark's, looking for something to bite. Infuriated he let a wicked smile escape the edges of his grimacing mouth. His skin rippled as it turned black like coal as the changes continued.

He began to laugh and watched as his muscles grew to double their normal size. His bones morphed and became slender and more elongated, yet stronger. His now misshapen body resembled an impish or gargoyle like creature. His elbows let out a crack as his ulna grew past the bending point, creating a stretch of bone two or three inches long jetting from his forearm. The stretch directed upward along his bicep, so that when he bent his elbows at ninety degrees the elongated bones were perpendicular to the length of his bicep. The newly formed spikes sharpened to a point. His shoulder blades snapped as they extended from his spine, pushing against it, giving him a hunched over look about. With a crunch, his knuckles dislocated and flattened, then grew forward to increase his palms’ width. His fingernails overcame the pads of his fingers, giving him talon like claws. Those claws faded to black much like his skin. His eyes now darkened further into blood red. His jaw seemed to unhinge and widen. More canine like teeth filled the new space. Kai...what has become of you? What is this?
Áedán watched from only a few yards away as his best friend morphed into this wretched thing. He stood there paralyzed from shock. He couldn't move his legs. He couldn't move anything, he just stood there trembling.

"Áedán!! Get out of there now!!" He could hear someone yelling at him, but couldn't turn his head to see who it was. It didn't matter anyways. "Damn it Áedán!!" A strong arm gripped Áedán's waist and threw him into the air. He swung over someone's shoulder but couldn't seem to care...

Ulrich ran faster than he'd ever run before. The weight of his little brother resting on his shoulder didn't seem to matter now. He'd just seen a demon, looking to turn his little brother into minced meat. The whole town was in danger. He had to get back home and retrieve his axe. It was his job to defend Doble, and he had let the people down. He leapt over a cart lying in the street and turned to look back. The black figure was right behind him. It barreled through the cart sending splintering pieces everywhere. Pain shot through his back. He stumbled for a moment kneeling on the smooth cobblestone. He was sure pieces of splintered wood were driven into his back but at once he was back up. There was no time to slow down, he had to get Áedán out of there.

Lights in all the buildings began turning on. The beast obviously was not concerned with stealth. Although it was fast, its heavy footsteps demolished the street. Ulrich could feel that he was losing ground; he would have to do something before he and his brother were done for. To his right he spotted a pile of crates resting up against a house. He jumped atop crate after crate, his agility and skill and bewildering the beast for a moment. Ulrich was on the rooftops now, sprinting across the shingles. Just as he jumped across to another building, he heard a horrendous crash. When he landed on the other side he turned and gasped at what he saw. The demon had completely leveled the house he was just running across. If there was ever a time where adrenaline was needed, it was now. Ulrich was gone in an instant. There was no way he was going to be on top of the next house that came falling down. Rooftop after rooftop he sprinted across, and soon he was becoming tired. He couldn't keep this up much longer. He no longer noticed how hard his breaths were coming, he only noticed that the searing pain in his back was returning, and his legs were beginning to feel like jelly. Finally he had made it home. Not that it would do him much good now, he was much too tired from the chase to turn and fight the beast. But he had to. It was his duty, to protect his brother and the people of Doble.
As he came to he heard a loud crashing sound. He was tossed onto the floor and looked around. Ulrich had saved him. Their front door was kicked in but that was the least of their problems. He began to remember what exactly had happened. He was going over to Kai's house to keep him company to distract him from the fact that today was the day his parents had died. Just like any other year. Only this time he found Kai lying in the street covered in blood. So much blood...I could barely make out that it was him. He remembered watching in horror as Kai changed into a demon, but Áedán couldn't remember much more than that except for hearing Ulrich's voice call out to him. Then darkness. He turned to Ulrich now, who was frantically trying to throw his armor on before they were dead meat. Áedán always felt proud of having a Demon Hunter as an older brother, but Ulrich looked terrified. Áedán had never seen such a look in his brothers' eyes. It was almost as if he had starred at death itself. He took his axe off the wall and turned to his younger sibling.

"Áedán, go down to the basement and stay there. Under no circumstances must you leave. Do you understand?" Ulrich bellowed. His brother pleaded in return,

"What if you don't come back!!"

"If I do not return within a few hours, wait until its day and take as many supplies as you can. Head northeast to Bhaile; you will use it as a rest stop along the way to Holjmir. Just follow Silver River until you get there. Holjmir is the Demon Hunting capital, you can train there. Live the legacy our father would have wanted ok? Can you do that Áedán?" Ulrich had a solemn look now. He knew it was the end. He didn't expect to come back.

"I can..." It was all the response Áedán could muster. He looked down, unable to look his brother in face. The thought of Ulrich dying was just too much. And when he finally did look up, Ulrich was gone. He starred at the shattered doorway for a moment and then realized what must be done. He had to get to the basement, and fast. He scrambled to his feet and ran through the house, past the kitchen and down into the basement. He pulled open the thick steel doors and peered into the black depths below. Áedán closed and locked the door behind him before turning on the lights. Boxes and crates piled everywhere, full of books or old clothes, maybe even a few pieces of furniture. No one had been down there since Bremen their father had died. Áedán went down the wooden steps and continued to look around. He saw their small basement window and walked over to it. Before moving the curtains he stopped himself. The light you idiot! He quickly dashed to the wall and flipped the lights off and returned to the window. He nudged the curtains with his fingers just enough to peak through.
As he stepped out into the cold night air he let out a sigh. He was not prepared for a battle. His back ached and his legs were sore. With his axe swung over his right shoulder he marched down the street, searching for his enemy: the black demon that appeared and chased him down earlier. He seemed to have lost it when he arrived at his home, but he knew it was watching him from somewhere. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a glistening red. He turned to see the demon's eyes glaring at him from atop a building, in a flash they were face to face locked in combat. Ulrich swung his axe only to be caught by the demon's hand. The demon's skin was hard and felt like steel. Definitely a Night Demon. Only they have the dark piecing gaze and row after row of shark like teeth. But this was a new demon. Ulrich hadn't seen it before; usually the demon that appears in Doble is a dark shade of blue with golden eyes. This demon was black as coal with eyes that ran red as blood. He wasn't sure at first how to fight it. He kicked the demon's hand away, setting his axe free, and then spun one hundred and eighty degrees to strike again. Again his blow missed its target, but this time because the monster had dodged in a backward flip. The demon crouched now preparing to lunge forward when Ulrich swung his axe upwards. The emerald resting in the blade of his axe flared and a great phoenix spirit appeared. A wave of blazing flames surged towards the demon. A direct hit.

Things were getting interesting now. The demon lay in the street smoking from the elemental attack. It was obviously surprised by the summoned spirit. Ulrich just smirked, his father passed this axe down to him when he was 14 and had entered the Demon Hunting Academy. A phoenix spirit was locked inside the emerald and sent surges of fire out when the user willed. Elemental weapons are an enormous upper hand on a demon, and it was Ulrich's Ace up his sleeve. He swung again and again sending waves of fire at the beast. It tried to dodge but was not quick enough. It was struck again and again and lay there glaring up at Ulrich. However, it was not beaten yet. In one fluid movement the demon stood and leaped through the air. It jumped over Ulrich and onto the roof of the house beyond him. The demon grasped the chimney with its claws and tore it from the roof, hoisting it into the air. Before Ulrich had any time to react the chimney came crashing into him. Rubble from the bricks was everywhere, dust and dirt filled Ulrich's lungs as he scrambled among the wreckage. Ulrich felt his sides, he did not seem to have anything broken, but would definitely contract a bruise the next morning, if he survived that long.

[9 ½ pages in word docx]