A tantalizing word, a tempting word. A word that promised freedom and happiness.
A fantasy. A different world.
Yet now, this distant dream was coming to life. It blossomed around them, beautiful and brilliant - but harsh and cruel. Like winter's icy embrace.
A dark word. A haunting word.
In order to escape their nightmare, the silver-eyed Shinx and his mother would have to sacrifice something important. Something vital.
They didn't have a choice, and they couldn't turn back.
The silver-eyed Shinx trotted behind his mother, exhaustion in every step. They had just run across miles of unfamiliar land, and at last he had been allowed to walk at a manageable pace. Though his muscles burned and paws ached, he was more than content to just walk.
Then, suddenly, his mother stopped.
Not noticing that she had halted until it was too late, the Shinx bumped into the back of her legs. The resulting pain was intensified by his weariness, and a small cry slipped past his lips.
A low growl vibrated in her mother's voice as she shushed him. Her hiss was filled with urgency – and maybe even fear.
But his mother was never scared. She was brave and invincible. She was perfect, in his eyes.
He dropped into a low crouch, trying to hide in the shadows. It was difficult to stop himself from whimpering – he could feel nothing but icy terror.
A quiet voice spoke. "Turn back now."
From the shadows came a male Luxray. His dark fur – indigo and black – had concealed him perfectly.
He could have followed them the entire way.
The Shinx suppressed a whimper with difficulty. Was their fantasy false? Had they never really escaped?
"We can never turn back. You have never accepted us, and it was time to leave." His mother spoke in a harsh growl, the sleek fur along her back beginning to bristle. She looked fierce, now – bordering on frightening.
But the other Luxray was not impressed.
"Turn back now, and I will not kill you," he repeated, his voice deadly-soft.
With an unpleasant sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, the Shinx realized that, despite his words, the elderly Luxray did not want them to turn back.
He wanted a fight, and he was going to get one, whether his victims obeyed or not.
The Shinx's mother stared evenly at the male, her eyes narrowed. Then she shifted her position, sweeping her tail back and forth – and kicked her son into the undergrowth.
He crouched there, wrapping his tail around his body. Now that he was away from the protection of his mother, he was unable to stop himself from shivering. Yet the ferns that shaded him remained still, as if scorning his fear.
"Don't even try protecting him." The male took a slow step forward, the movement fluid and graceful. "If you refuse to give in, I will kill you both." His golden eyes took on a nasty gleam – twin beacons, shining in the dark.
Then he smiled, revealing each shining tooth.
"Now… who's first?"
The Shinx's mother lunged.
She caught his shoulder with a powerful swipe, leaving a trail of bloody marks running down his foreleg. The male howled and charged at her, tackling her to the ground. Yet she twisted away, moving out of his reach.
Electricity sparked and flared, giving the battlers' fur a pale glow. They leaped at each other again, reaching out with static-enforced paws, striking and bashing and clawing. Growls and hisses echoed in the dark clearing.
And blood fell like rain to the forest floor.
The silver-eyed Shinx began quivering harder, the tiniest of whimpers escaping his mouth. He was helpless, defenseless, hopeless.
Against the power of their former captor, how could they survive?
He watched in terror from the shadows as the two Luxray fought. His mother was nimble, and her agility had saved her from many a nasty blow. Yet the male was stronger, and he had much more stamina.
His mother was tiring. She stumbled on her paws before lashing out, scoring another blow. The male didn't even flinch at the weak attack, though; he caught the female in the stomach with a powerful kick. Sparks flew as he did so, as bright as those evil golden eyes.
The silver-eyed Shinx watched in horrified silence as his mother fell to the ground, unable to move due to her paralysis. She stared up into the face of the older male, her eyes locked onto his.
"Good night," he whispered, his voice a silky purr.
Then he lunged, lightning-swift, silent as the shadows. His teeth closed in around her throat, clamping together with deadly force. Blood sprayed the grass as he crushed her windpipe.
"And sweet dreams," he finished, drawing away with blood dripping from his jaws. It ran like a river down his throat, staining his fur scarlet.
And, just like that, the little Shinx was an orphan.
He shook violently, whimpering pathetically, claws digging into the grassy earth. He felt numb, cold – almost dead, like it had been his throat that had been crushed.
His mother, the only living being in the world who loved him, stared at the sky with empty eyes. Her life drained out of her in a dark red river, staining the grass and gathering in a puddle.
When the silver-eyed Shinx had suffered, his mother had always been there for him. She was the valiant protector, the invincible guardian. She was the one who would never fade from his life. It had seemed like she would remain there, rock-solid, though his father had drifted away…
Yet now, her body lay dead and bleeding on the ground, growing cold as the warmth faded from it. She was gone – gone – gone.
And there was no bringing her back.
The older male looked up from his kill, a cold smile creeping across his face. There was blood on his teeth, on his face, on his claws.
He was a murderer, and he was searching for his next target.
But it quickly became clear that something was wrong.
The silver-eyed Shinx was certainly hiding in the foliage, quivering violently in the shadows. Yet his scent was still there, and the sound of his breathing… and a Luxray's superior vision would easily be able to pierce the darkness and find him there.
Yet his mother's killer appeared not to see him. His evil golden gaze passed over the ferns, not seeing what was hidden within.
"Come out to play, little kitten," the Luxray purred, scanning the darkness once more before moving away. His stride was just as powerful and elegant as before. He was completely unfazed by the fact that he had just killed someone…
And then he was gone.
The Shinx was left immobile in the ferns. Even his violent shaking had come to a halt, stilled by the horror of what he had just witnessed.
He stared into the clearing, eyes unseeing. His mother's death replayed in his mind – the glassy look of her eyes, the jaws snapping shut on her throat, the thud of her body as she hit the grass.
The male Luxray would not return here to look for him. Hope flickered in the darkness that had become the silver-eyed Shinx's life – he could escape now.
He could pay his respects to his mother and escape, running again into the unknown.
Slowly, he unfroze, stepping out of the shade. His steps were numb and dead, landing hard on the bloodstained grass.
It took an eternity for him to reach his mother's dead body. And he simply stood there, looking at her without really seeing.
Then he stumbled, collapsing into her wet fur, lying in her shadow. Her comforting scent remained, faint beneath the stench of blood. Yet he could smell it, and he inhaled it deeply. He wanted the memory of her to last forever.
The Shinx's faint whimpers started up again, gradually escalating into wails. The desperate sound of his sorrow echoed in the clearing, ripping from his throat.
He had to run – to escape. He could not remain here while his mother's corpse rotted, could not stay while a killer stalked through these woods.
As his crying reached a powerful new volume, his jumbled thoughts became clear.
Take me away! I don't want to be here! Take me somewhere safe! Please, please, let me leave! Please!
A torrent of hissing voices seemed to whisper in response, echoing eerily into his ears.
Then it was gone.
Everything was gone.
And the world faded to black.
I've awoken from a nightmare...
…only to realize that I hadn't been dreaming…
A creature stirred in the depths of a dark red prison. Eyes opened, a body twitched. Life returned to the hollow shell of a monster that had once been great.
Yet, for this beast, there was no hope of escape.
No hope at all.
…and this nightmare haunts me, follows me…
…for all eternity.
Aaaand… welcome to Heart of the Storm!
No worries – the whole story won't be this dark. There will be plenty of humor in here, though there will be some blood and gore.
For old readers looking back at this... all I can say is that Chapter 1 really needed a rewrite. xD