THIS IS THE OFFSHOOT I WROTE FOR THE LLS FUNDRAISER
Capturing a Shadow - A Full Chapter Flashback
It was so dark.
It was so dark he couldn't breathe.
It felt like the room closed around him, tighter and tighter, and he couldn't run. He was surrounded!
The voice was dark and quiet; it was Marcus Black-Sunset.
A blade flew by him and sliced shallowly across his chest. He hissed, long black hair swishing as he turned in the direction of the strike.
He snarled. How could he concentrate with the darkness choking him?
A kick to the stomach sent him sprawling. The 12-year-old rolled and sprang back to his feet, back against the wall. He wanted to scream.
Why? Why? Why did he have to be this way? It wasn't fair, none of his classmates feared closed spaces like he did.
Suddenly he was picked up and slammed against the wall. A large body pressed against his and long fangs were at his throat. The mage froze, struggling to breathe, panic welling up in his chest.
As fast as it had happened it was over. The lights came on and he was dropped unceremoniously on the ground. Marcus looked down at him with disappointment shining in his eyes. This year Marcus had taken him on as one of his few personal students and Kai couldn't help but feel that he had let the vampire down at every turn.
"You smell like panic child," the tall ancient vampire rumbled. "Why does this exercise bother you so?"
The vampire stepped back from the fallen child and sat in a easily conjured chair.
"I don't know sir," the assassin-in-training choked out. He had been at Riker Academy for 2 years and had never lied to Marcus. He hated himself for it.
"Why do you lie to me child?"
Because no one must ever know. When his guardian, Krystien had told him it took an extremely traumatic event to awaken a mage, Kai had known exactly what had awakened him. His family had hated him for what he was – magical. Ever since he was a child they had starved and beaten him. There was little that he remembered about them besides their names and how fat his uncle had been. Perhaps that was for the best since there was no good to remember and all pain, so much pain.
Kai shuddered despite himself. "I'm not lying sir."
Marcus considered him, "Yes you are and I do not understand why you would. This is a serious problem Kai. An assassin cannot be afraid of the dark."
Green eyes glared at his teacher, "I am NOT afraid of the dark."
"Then what is it?" his voice was spiked with impatience.
"It is…," he couldn't force himself to speak to words, to name himself a coward.
"You don't respond this way fighting me in the light."
"It's not the dark. The dark just makes it worse," he snapped before he could stop himself.
Cold black eyes snapped to his and narrowed.
He did the only sensible thing he could think of. He fled.
Marcus watched the not-quite-teenager flee the room with concerned eyes. However small for his age he might be, Kai was an extremely powerful young man. He fought with a speed and cleverness that was nearly unheard of in a fighter of his age.
However, there was something off about the youth. He was incredibly intelligent but something was overriding that with this incomprehensible fear. The vampire decided then that they needed to speak to the child's guardian.
Krystien Boudreau was not a difficult man to reach, not will all the ties he had to the Riker underground. For a man that was not a Riker he held respect in the community. Finding and raising an incredible asset like Kai simply added to his already great esteem. Council Member Melanie Rain stepped up to the door. As current headmistress of Riker it was her responsibility to interact with the parents or guardians of current students.
The stocky blonde welcomed her into his home with relative ease.
"Councillor, please come in."
Once they were seated in the living area the headmistress cut to the chase, "Why is Kai afraid of the dark?"
The assassin looked confused, then understanding dawned on the man. "Kai is not afraid of the dark, Melanie."
Melanie frowned. She thought the man would know more, "I know most would not want to admit that their assassin apprentice has problems with the dark, but we cannot fix the problem if we don't know…"
"With all due respect, Councillor, if you would simply listen then you would understand."
Melanie looked at him with her typical serenity.
"Thank you. Now it's not the dark that Kai has trouble with, it's closed spaces. He has some form of claustrophobia. It just manifests more easily in the dark because a room feels smaller in the dark.
"He has communicated this to you?"
"Oh fuck no," the man laughed but his blue eyes did not show amusement. "Kai speaks to no one about this."
He looked her in the eyes, "You will tell no one outside the council what I'm about to share with you," he tone brokered no negotiation. "I first found Kai beaten half to death and freezing in an alley in London. The kid did not come from a good place, Melanie, if what little I could get from him is true. They beat him, refused him food, and locked him up," Krystien shrugged. "I can only assume this is a vestige of that time. It is a lot better than it was, for months he couldn't sleep inside a closed room at all. He slept in the living room."
It had been that bad? Though the Kai that Marcus had faced just days previous had frozen almost completely in the darkness.
"It still debilitates him. It needs to be fixed."
"I'm unsure how you could do that, Councillor. Be careful with my charge. What people forget is that all mages are traumatized. That's how they were awakened."
The Riker had considered that it was related to the boy's awakening, "Do you know anything about how he awakened?"
"No, he never told me. It is obvious it still follows him but he won't speak of it. Maybe he will to you; he is very fond of you Melanie," he shrugged again, the doubt strong in his voice. "I will say one thing. If you hurt him in any way it will be you that sits in judgement before me, am I clear?"
"This is clearly a serious problem Rain. Something needs to be done about it, and now. If any of his classmates figured this out ..." yellow eyes flashed with concern as Christolph Flint spoke. In charge of recruiting, Flint was the one that first scouted Kai as a possible entry into Riker.
"It is clear that this is causing serious problems in his training, most especially with me," Marcus growled. Kai was a favourite of his as well.
"Solutions anyone? All I'm hearing is complaining," Rain snapped.
"How do you break someone's fear of anything?" purred Ulrich. Ulrich was the alumni coordinator. A powerful and unmerciful vampire, he handled alumni problems quickly and brutally.
The council stared at him.
"You can't seriously be suggesting…"
"Shock therapy? Yes." Green eyes were hard. "It is a highly effective psychotherapy technique. He is a strong boy; he'll survive."
"We have to be careful Ulrich. Kai is a mage. Mages are awakened through a singularly traumatic event, something horrifying enough that they temporarily lose their mind and the magic takes over. This phobia is undoubtedly linked to that event," Rain pushed.
"If he cannot face his fear how can he possibly survive here? There are only two options; he is obliviated and sent home, or he goes through this trial," the vampire insisted.
"We cannot do this thing!" Rain snarled back, her eyes flashing.
"Rain," Marcus' whispering voice still boomed in the room. "You have not seen how he gets. To see someone so powerful and confident freeze like a prey animal at the slightest containment… it is … disturbing. Something needs to be done."
Her eyes scanned the room, taking in the faces of her peers.
"I'm sorry Rain. I too have seen this in him. I would do anything to help him and this seems like the only way."
"Do what you want; I will not be a part of this," praying to the gods that they would not destroy Kai, she left the room, unable to hear anymore.
The others turned to Ulrich. "I have a plan," he said, barely managing to keep the sneer off his face, "leave it to me."
Kai watched the potion bubbling very carefully. As much as he excelled at so many subjects at Riker, he did not excel at potions. No one could figure out exactly why, either. As a blood magic user, he had both precision and patience. He had a quick mind, but for some reason he just could not apply it to the potions laboratory.
If he was honest with himself it was because he did not like the dungeons, nor did he like Professor Ulrich who was just now looking at him in an almost predatory way. He snapped his eyes away from the professor and back to his potion as fast as he could but it was too late; he had missed the moment he was waiting for. He stirred the bat's liver in anyway, but the potion would not have full potency. To his embarrassment it turned a violent purple. It should have been a dark green.
Cursing under his breath, he frantically searched the potion chapter to find a way to fix his mistake. There was only 10 minutes left in the class and he desperately did not want another low grade. It was not to be; there was no way to fix the potion as it was. If he completed the rest of the steps perfectly it would still work, but only at about 65% strength.
He berated himself silently as he finished preparing the final ingredients and added them at the exact required times. To his relief, the color eventually dimmed and turned a light green. That was better… right?
He grimaced, 'Why in Apollo's name am I even taking this class?'
The bell chimed to signal the end of the class period. All the students bottled and labeled a sample before bringing it to the front of the class on their way out. As Kai placed his in the rack, a voice sounded behind him.
"Mr. Boudreau, would you stay behind please?"
"Ahh fuck me," he hissed under his breath in parseltongue.
He slowly turned to face his professor. Green eyes locked on green as the much larger vampire loomed from next to his desk.
"Mr. Boudreau you work hard in every single class you take, except mine. Can you tell me why you believe that potions is not worthy of your time?"
Kai took a step back. Kai was still quite small for his age and this vampire always radiated power and control, "Sir, I try as hard as I can in your class. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm just not as good at potions as I am in other areas."
"You just don't respect me or this class. I'm considering asking the headmistress to remove you from this class."
Kai's eyes went wide in restrained anger. This guy had always had something against him, "Sir! That is not at all the case! I …"
The professor cut off the student with a fist slamming on a desk. A vial lying on the edge of the desk rolled off and smashed onto the floor. A large cloud of purple smoke billowed out from the vial and spread quickly throughout the room.
Kai held his breath as the cloud dissipated throughout the room.
The vampire sniffed in apparent irritation and waved his wand, "Fertilizer sprays for the greenhouses. I have cleared the room."
Kai discretely cast a detection charm around himself. Unable to hold his breath much longer, he released it when the charm returned a clean verdict.
"Sir, I.." Kai stopped when a wave of dizziness came upon him.
He hissed in anger, "That was not a fertilizer bomb."
The room titled and his left hand stabilized him as his right reached for his bloodmagic knife.
Black knife in hand, he rolled to the left as the vampire lunged at him. As soon as he had his feet his knife was flashing across his hands. The poison resistance ruins were based on the hands if you were smart. This allowed for a quick activation.
He kept moving as the poison continued to draw on him. The blood magic kept this powerful agent from completely taking him under, but he hadn't completed the three additional rituals it would take to remove the agent entirely.
"Ulrich," Kai hissed as he stared down the vampire, trying to keep space between him and his professor, "why are you doing this? This does not make any sense."
The student's breathing was becoming unsteady and his vision beginning to double. He knew if he didn't take drastic action soon then he'd be subject to whatever this man wanted to do with him. He couldn't understand what was happening. It was not an entirely uncommon event for teachers to get into quarrels with students. Students at Riker were encouraged to be their own people and like his own first encounter with Riker Anaconda during blood magic class, Professors would test students.
This, however, was not a test. Ulrich came at him with everything he had.
'He wants me alive though,' he thought at he dodged another restraining spell.
"Jesus fuck Ulrich what is your goddamn problem?" he shouted as a wave of nausea rocked him. He fired back his own spells but the ancient vampire batted them away like flies.
The green eyed vampire just sneered at him, fangs glistening. Then, the lights went out.
Panic spread through Kai as the room closed around him.
'No no no no no!' He went absolutely still, listening for any movement, feeling for magical sources.
Unfortunately for Kai, ancient vampires move soundlessly and did not breathe. The potions classroom felt overwhelmingly magical. As silently as possible, he palmed his bloodmagic knife, the blade slicing his flesh and coating it with blood.
'Apollo!' he called in his mind. He tried to focus as unconsciousness pulled at him, 'hear my call, darkness blocks my path, help me stay in the Light.'
'Let the light of the new day shine upon you, mage.'
Gathering his strength he whispered, "Sunrise blade."
Light of a new day peeled back the darkness as a long sword, seemingly made solely of light appear in his hand.
"Nice try child," a voice hissed in his ear. Long arms grabbed his shoulders and pressed him back against a wall-like chest.
Terrified eyes popped open wide and flight mode kicked in. He flailed against his much larger foe but it was to no avail. Kai was still so young and only half trained. He was no match for the vampire assassin.
The drug had not yet defeated his body but all that meant was he was conscious when fangs sliced in his throat.
The pain, it felt like his very soul was being sucked out of his body. It was so much worse than he ever feared it was. He legs began to shake and weakness overcame him. The vampire drew him closer still and consciousness fled.
The vampire did not notice the sword fall then vanish from the boy's hand. He could only feel the power that sang through him as he drank. It was only his age that stopped him when the boy collapsed into his arms, unconscious.
Removing his fangs, he managed to seal the wounds before he collapsed to his knees, overwhelmed by the power he had just consumed.
"Zeus," he breathed, body shaking, "that's what drinking the blood of a blood mage is like."
He struggled to his feet. Once steadied, he pitched the still youth over his shoulder with a vicious grin.
There was work to do.
"YOU DID WHAT?"
"Honestly, Marcus, it was the only way to subdue the child."
"You're telling me, that the only way you could subdue a drugged 12 year old boy was by drinking his blood? Do you think I believe that?"
Marcus glared at Ulrich from the other side of the stone box. The almost lifeless body of his student lay before him inside it.
The potion master sneered, "Believe what you want."
The elder vampire's eyes settled on Kai, "I'm starting to have second thoughts about this plan."
"It's too late now," the other snapped, using his wand to levitate the top in place, sealing the youth in the box. "Now, we must get out of here before he wakes. The blood draining will have weakened his magic but we do not want to be in this room when the backlash hits."
Breathing deeply to calm himself, Marcus turned and stepped from the room, closing the door behind his colleague.
'I feel like I am going to regret this.'
They had monitoring charms inside the box to tell them to moment the child awoke, but they weren't necessary for that purpose. A scream of rage echoed through the empty room that startled all that observed it.
Those present studied the monitors. They child's heart rate was through the roof.
It was so dark.
He couldn't breathe.
Where was he? He always left a light on somewhere in his room so he wouldn't awake in the complete darkness. His head pounded intensely. He reached up to touch his eyes and his arm hit on stone above. He froze like a spotted deer and screamed.
"No, not again. He cannot do this to me again!"he beat his hands on the stone that surrounded him. "NO NO NO NO!" he was pushed at it again and again.
"I CANNOT DO THIS AGAIN!"
As panic set in, he forgot all. He forgot who he was, everything he had become since that day. He was back in the box, buried beneath the ground, where his uncle had buried him after believing he had beaten him to death.
"PLEASE UNCLE! PLEASE LET ME OUT! PLEASE!"
He yelled himself hoarse pleading to be released from this hell. He pounded on the stone until his hands bled and all the strength had fled from his weakened body. After what felt like hours, he collapsed against the bottom of his coffin, long hair matted to his neck with sweat. The boy's breath came in gasps and tears ran from his eyes.
With collapse came introspection as had no more strength to rage against his confines. Magic whispered across his mind, magic. He felt the power within himself, grabbed at it frantically and lashed it again the stone, willing it to break. The wards on the box held against the uncontrolled onslaught. He couldn't do anything!
Despair rose within him. He thought he had escaped this! He couldn't survive this again…
He had survived this before.
He had survived and escaped his uncle.
Fear and despair turned to rage and he chanted to himself to channel it. He would not let the man win again. To drug him, take him from the classroom and presumably lock him in this WHATEVER THE HELL IT WAS, was just too far. This was the straw that broke the camel's back.
So full of focused anger, he didn't even consider being frightened of his circumstances. He felt around to see if his bloodmagic knife was still on his person. It wasn't. Cursing the even greater invasion on his person, he focused his magic to growing a single fingernail to razor sharpness. A little concentration and a small ball of light lit the tiny box.
'Gods this is small,' he shuddered and refocused. He drew a series of deep breathes. Panic flared inside him again but he quashed it with rage. He would not be defeated by that leech!
Using the lengthened nail, he slashed his left palm. Deftly he drew a set of runes in blood around the perimeter of the box as far as he could reach. Placing his palms on the hard surface, he channelled as much power as he could muster into the runes.
Like precisely placed C4 the top of the stone box blew outward. Unable to shield himself in time, chunks of stone slashed him as they fell around him. The pain did not matter as he was free! With bloodied and beaten hands he pushed the rubble off of him, letting out a bark of victorious laughter.
As soon as his feet hit the floor the door slammed open. A blast of green fire met those that came through, scattering them.
BOOM! The angry mage kept attacking. There were no friends here, only enemies.
The 12-year-old dodged stunning and restraining spells as best he could. He had to make them pay for this.
He screamed in rage when a pair of large arms encircled him from behind and lifted him off the ground. Small legs kicked frantically against a tall cold body. Vampire! Gods not again!
"Be calm child, it is Marcus. I will not harm you."
"Lies!" the child hissed back, breath coming in gasps. "How could I possibly trust you?"
"I am so sorry, child. I am so sorry," the deep, rumbling voice whispered in his ear. "I made a terrible mistake going along with this." Even the cold vampire given the title of 'The Judge' had been deeply affected by his student's terrified pleas to be released.
"Kai!" a shout came from the door as the headmistress ran in. "By the gods, what have they done to you?"
A glare from the older women had Kai's feet back on solid ground only to have him swept up in a hug. "I heard the explosions and came running. What has happened here?"
"Only what needed to be done, Rain," a purring voice came from the left. Ulrich stepped out of the shadows, a sneer planted on his face. "The boy fought through his fear and escaped."
"You're telling me that this whole thing was some half-cocked attempt to rid me of my claustrophobia?" Kai hissed.
"Yes, child," answered Marcus.
"Except him," Green eyes locked on green. "He expected me to fail. He expected me to go mad in that box. He knew, somehow he knew."
"What do you mean Kai?" Rain's eyes narrowed on the potions professor.
"You all want to know so fucking bad why I am claustrophobic? Huh? When I was 8 my uncle thought that he had beaten me to death so he buried me in the backyard. Alive. I woke up in a box underground. In the dark," he paused, his breath coming in gasps. "He knew exactly what he needed to do to get to me. What is your fucking problem Ulrich? And where is my goddamn dagger?"
"This?" the undead professor turned Kai's solid black dagger of power over in his left hand.
Kai moved to snatch it from his hand but was held back by the headmistress.
"Now why would I give this back to one so undeserving of it?"
"Ulrich, give the lad back the knife," Christolph barked, his werewolf half rising up in defence of a pup.
"Undeserving?" the assassin in training hissed. He took a deep breath to calm himself, "You have attacked me, drank my blood," Rain cursed next to him, "imprisoned me, and now you withhold my most prized possession. What have I ever done to wrong you?"
Marcus strode up to the other vampire and, quick as lightening, grabbed him by the throat, "Stop disgracing this council you fool." The council judge was angry now, feeling like he'd been fooled into aiding a plot for vengeance.
Ripping the knife out of his colleague's hand, he tossed the knife to his student and Ulrich on the floor.
"This is done. Out, all of you!"
"We are not finished!" Kai retorted in indignation. He locked eyes with Ulrich, "As my professor, I am forbidden from attacking you without being attacked first. But mark my words, the day I graduate you're finished. Enjoy these years, they are your last!"
No one in that room doubted the mage and on the day Kai Boudreau graduated from Riker Academy he fulfilled that promise. Almost immediately the alumni voted for him to take the vampire's place.