Chapter 1- The Ferai Within

Snow fell fast and silently over the deserted path ahead. Scree and Jen trampled their way through the snow which, despite Solum's eternal winter, never seemed to rise above a few inches.

Jen's biggest concern however was the rapidly decreasing temperature which never rose above more than a few degrees. Even in her newly awakened Ferai form, a creature purposely built to survive this harsh climate, her sleeveless arms and exposed back were suffering the full brunt of the colds embrace. The local ruins offering little in the way of protection from the cold.

"Scree, how much further is it to the Necropolis?" Jens pace drained to a stand still, the cold enveloping her even tighter.

"It is still a long way to the Necropolis, Jen. Come on, let's not dilly dally. We must find Jared"

"Scree, I'm tired. Can't we just go back to the Hunts camp? Just for a little while?" Jen retreated back into the tone of her childhood.

"We've already passed the halfway point Jen. It'll take longer to go back than it would to keep going"

Jen sighed, but refused to be defeated. "Well, can't we at least rest here for a bit?"

"Humph. Very well Jen. But we must be ready to go soon"

"Yeah sure. We'll leave at daybreak" Jen snickered with a smile.

"Very comical Jen. But need I remind you of the scale of the task that stands before us- the fate of the realms, Mortalis and my Lady Arella hanging in the balance?"

"Right, well don't worry Scree. This place will still be in danger after I've caught a few Z's"

"Right. Well, good night then" Scree pottered off to find a sheltered spot to transform into his statue phase in peace.

"Hey, wow! Where do you where do you think you're going, rocky?" Jen tapped her fist against Scree's stone head. "You've still gotta help me build a fire"

Scree emerged into his living form. "I'm made of stone! Why would we need to waste our time with such an endeavour?"

"I don't know if you've noticed Scree, but the temperature doesn't really raise much above a few degrees around here. And I don't think either of us would be particularly happy if I wake up tomorrow, and I'm a frozen Jenscile".

Scree sighed. "Oh you humans are always so fussy with your heat, food and air. You're always such a fragile species"

"Yeah laugh it up rocky boy. You just wait until we run into the nut with a sledgehammer ready to turn you into gravel"

The mountain clearing became awash with the bright orange glow of the fire blazing in the centre of the clearing. Jen sat with her knees curled up to her chest, staring into the raging torrent of the flames. It was the first time since Scree had appeared in her hospital room and pulled her through the rift gate into the Nexus, throwing her headfirst into this crazy conflict that she'd actually had time to relax and reflect on what had transpired so far- Lewis being abducted, getting pulled into this new world and suddenly being turned into one of those, things.

She stared at her vambrace; the crude metal plates were surprisingly light and comfortable for their size. But their apparently innocent exterior held a far greater power within them, like Jen I guess. The first time when Herne had transformed her in the temple as she had felt as though she had just dipped her arms in acid. But now every time she used the vambrace she felt a great surge of power running through her, like someone had just dosed her with her own supercharged brand of heroin. And when she returned to her human form she could still feel the primal energy boiling deep inside of her.

Jen held her hands out towards the fire, enjoying the warmth's embrace as it radiated off the flames. The fire also served as an effective deterrent against the Malkai, allowing Jen to sleep in silent security. For once her childhood pyromaniac phase was finally proving useful.

Jen collapsed into the solid dirt beneath her, praying for an undisturbed nights sleep. She lay staring up into the unending darkness. It was strangely unsettling that something so familiar could be so different- it was unhomely, the feeling of unease in finding something familiar but subtly off. It only made her yearn to be back in Mortalis, staring up at her own her own stars again, even more. But sadly she began to realize more and more that, at least for now, would be nothing more than a fantasy.

Jen's heart pounded in her chest. All she could do was run. She reached down to her thigh in search of her blade, it was gone. She tried to tap into her demonic power, but the vambrace which were usually clasped tightly around her forearms, and which were her source of primal energy, had disappeared. Animal fear gripped her. She knew it was right behind her. She had no idea what it was, but she knew it meant her harm.

So she ran. Sometimes she would summon the courage to glance back over her shoulder, noticing the deep prints she was leaving in her wake, the high rock walls of the pass closing in behind her, cutting off any hope she may have of retreat. She knew she was still within the realm of Solum, but this place seemed far too demonic and corrupted, even for this world.

Jen glanced up towards the top of the cliff- seeing the creatures piercing green eyes and glowing talons as it stood upon on it's podium, staring down at her. Jen hastened her pace as much as her wavering stamina would allow. But the snow seemed to deepen the further and faster she went, the thick powder gripping tightly to her legs, threatening to drag her into the deep snow.

The creature leapt from its perch, gliding gracefully over Jen, landing on the opposite cliff top. The creature began running in parallel to Jen. As Jen struggled to force her way through the thick snow her pursuer sauntered alongside at the top of the cliff at a leisurely pace, taunting her.

Eventually Jen could not maintain her momentum any longer. She felt herself slowing, her legs being restrained by the snow. Her pace was brought to a crawl. She looked back over her shoulder, the creature still stood to full height upon the cliff top, it's piercing green eyes following her as she went.

The creature suddenly crouched, leaping forward from their perch across the divide once again. But this time the creature fell short of reaching the opposite cliff top, this time digging it's talons into the rock face. Fear gripped Jen once again; she tried desperately to regain her momentum.

The creature jumped again, planting itself against the opposite rock face. Jen could only flounder helplessly in the snow as she attempted to restart her run. The agile creature came ever closer with each jump, while on the ground Jen struggled endlessly to make the smallest of progress.

The beast made its final lunge. It glided gracefully through the air with inhuman grace and speed, descending on it's prey like a deadly Hawk. The creature crashed into Jen's side, throwing Jen off of her delicate balance. Jen and the creature were thrust into the snow, the two of them rolling through the powdery snow together. The creature emerged on top, straddling Jen's torso, keeping Jen's arms pinned to the ground in it's vice like grip. Any attempt to wriggle free on served to pain her already strained muscles. Jen stared up with fear in her eyes, the creatures strangely similar to her own. Jen suddenly realized- the creature that had been hunting her for so was herself having adopted the form of a Ferai!

Jen closed her eyes, praying that this was just some horrible nightmare. But the burning cold against her exposed back and arms told her that whatever was occurring was not her overactive imagination. She opened her eyes, staring defiantly up at her own face, corrupted by the primal energies of this demonic place. "You want to kill me, bitch? Then hurry up and do it already"

Jen immediately regretted her brash act of defiance as a new demonic fury emerged on the creatures face, its bladed teeth emerging from beneath its curled lips alongside a primal roar of rage. The Ferai's bladed teeth lunged for Jen's exposed throat.