Chapter 1: The Betrayal
Dark red liquid oozed down her singed arm. ‘Jon.’ With that one thought, Catherine came to an immediate attention. She hesitated for a moment then went through the sea of bodies before her. As her soft, brown eyes scanned through the bloodbath, her heart thumped rapidly. It was a sight to see. Men, women, and even little children, were all around her with scorched bodies and blood washed over them. Then, an intense, chilling breeze finally pierced through her pale, numb skin and into her very core. She started to dig through the bodies almost crazily.
By the time she glimpsed a tuft of golden hair, her slender fingers were stained dark red. Catherine’s heart stopped. Slowly, combing out her dark, silky hair (which contained bits of ashes and blood; not that she cared), she trudged to where the fair locks were visible. Cleaning the bloodstained hands on her clothes and pushing away the other bodies, the girl swept her trembling hands to the golden haired boy’s chest, causing his clothing to get bloody from her hands.
Thump…thump…thump. Jon was still alive. Although his hair was a bit burned off and his body charred, the guy was still very much alive. She held him close and started to shake him violently.
Except….he didn’t awake. After what seemed like hours of shaking, Catherine stopped. And using the last of her strength, she carried his body into the white blanket of snow that started covering the nothingness of the land; just as it did to Catherine’s heart.
“Hey Cat, guess what today is!”
Catherine looked at Jon’s deep green eyes blankly.
Jon was her best friend in the world. Though he was a year younger than her, he was taller and over protective of her. And, he had such a sweet disposition and was very cute, even hot; he was the constant fan girl gossip topic among the girls at the Korinth Private Academy.
Jon gave Catherine a dazzling smile.
“It’s your 17th birthday!”
He then handed her an extravagantly wrapped gift of royal purple and deep sea green tissue paper that was small and rectangular. Carefully, Cat unwrapped the present, although on the inside she wanted to rip off the wrappers and get it over with, which she’d had normally done. But she didn’t; she felt that she needed to respect his level of generosity.
“Wow! It’s beautiful!”
“I knew you’d love it, so I got it for you, princess.” He teased her.
“It’s…it’s…what I’ve always wanted! “She threw her slender arms around him and gave him a peck on the cheek. He blushed.
Jon’s present was extraordinary. It was an elegant necklace that had a small crystalline figure at the center and had many complicated but awing designs all around it.
“Well, you better start packing, we’re going somewhere special.”
“Huh? We’re going where?”
“Somewhere.” He grinned.
Soon, Jon and Catherine stepped out of the Academy, both welcoming the wintry
sensations of the crunching snow feeling. Suddenly, Jon blindfolded Cat causing her to punch him reflexively, backwards.
“Sorry! But you knew that I’ll do that if someone blindfolds me out of nowhere.”
“Well, it’s so that I can take you to somewhere special without you cheating and ruining the surprise.”
“Oh. But you know that I’ll never cheat.” She said sarcastically.
“Of course.” She sensed his sunny grin even under the blindfold.
Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.
A strong firm hand released the blindfold. In sight, there was a breathtaking sculpture of a lady wearing a dress.
‘Such an elegant figure.’ Catherine thought. But the figure seemed familiar; it was just in a corner of her mind.
“You sculpted this?!! This is awesome, Jon!”
“Look closer.” It took her a moment. Then…
“A sculpture of ME?!!” she exclaimed.
“Yup. To show that you are one special girl. Haha.”
They had a great time there but that’s when she sensed the smoke. It was a humongous amount of smoke that was unnatural. It bothered her. The smoke was coming from where the academy was.
Cat sprinted back to the Academy. No. This wasn’t happening.
“Cat, wait up! Don’t go there! Can’t you see?!! You need to be here, with me!”
Jon ran up to Cat, who was by then, at the Academy. Her face was a mask of horror. Fire was everywhere, burning down the luxurious building, home to all those who lived there including her. No…no…no… This wasn’t happening to her. People were screaming maniacally for help. She ran in. There, she saw clad in black cloaks, Soul Stealers. They were humans but at the same time, they weren’t. Like their name, they steal souls from other humans for purposes such as living longer.
Being an experienced fighter, Catherine knocked down the nearest blacked black cloaked person and struck a punch in another’s face. There was an intense heat that kept building up. Cat tried to stomp out the fire but with no avail. Through the blinding tears in her eyes, she dimly saw Jon, who was trying to get to her, as a Soul Stealer sneaked up at him and struck at his face. Everything was going all red through her eyes. Fire, blood, fire, blood… She faded out.
Remembering what had happened earlier that day; Catherine woke up frantically and searched wildly for Jon. She was caught off guard when a pair of petite hands grabbed her.
“Gotcha!” a pretty girl with glossy wavy auburn hair with blue eyes and model thin body squeezed her hands.
“What have you done to Jon?!” screamed Catherine. She tried to calm down that unexpected fury inside of her.
“Whoa, girl! Don’t go all hysterical! If it’s your boyfriend you’re talking about, he’s on the bed next to yours. Anyway, my name’s Aileen!” She sparked up a dazzling smile.
“Oh, sorry… I’m Catherine but, you could call me by Cat.”
“So, Cat… Who’s the guy? You didn’t elope with him, did you?” Cat’s cheeks went a shade of deep pink.
“No! He’s just my best friend! And it’s kind of freaky; what had happened to us…” She began telling Aileen about the fire and the Soul Stealers.
“Hmm… Interesting… But that’s strange. No one’s seen any fire by there.”
“Well, then what happened to US? Is this all fake to you?! Does the scorch marks look like the harmless effects of playing with fire? What about you? How did YOU find us and-” Catherine’s voice projected like a deafening screech as it went octaves higher.
“Shhhh! Don’t speak so loudly!” the other girl said. “Why, I guess I’ll have to answer your questions sooner or later. I’m... your fairy godmother! ”
“Never mind… You’ve got no sense of humor! You’re no fun!” Aileen stuck out her tongue.
“Will you please just tell me how you found us?” Catherine asked impatiently.
“Okay, okay! Jeez. Fine then, this is what happened: you’d collapsed while carrying your friend here,” she pointed at Jon, “and, I found you guys while I was trying to buy some herbs at a near village. So, I just brought you and your friend to my place. There, happy now? ”
“Just one question. What are you doing living by yourself, here? I mean, what exactly are you?”
“I’m a healer.”
“Really? Then can you-” Aileen knew what she was about to say.
“No. I’m sorry.” A sob was coming out of the dark haired girl’s throat. She shifted uneasily and avoided looking at her in the eyes as she carefully said her next words.
“He’s got no soul.”
“SO YOU’RE NOT GOING TO EVEN TRY?! YOU’RE GOING TO LET MY FRIEND DIE? WHAT KIND OF A PATHETIC, RETARDED, USESLESS HEALER ARE YOU? YOU’RE-”
“ENOUGH!” Catherine quieted down.
“I called someone to go with you on your journey to get your friend’s soul back,” said Aileen, deadly serious for the first time.
“You’re friend’s soul has been stolen, as you already know. You’ll have to save his soul quickly, or he’ll stay soulless forever.” Hearing the words that she was too afraid to think about, Catherine felt heartless.
“You heard what I said, little girl. Don’t question me when I’m trying to help you.”
“We’re still in Kaliin, if that helps you but,” she continued, “you need to keep traveling up to the north ‘till you get to Saiia, the sweet homeland of Soul Stealers. You’ll see it when you spot a skull cave, their lair. Then, the rest is up to you.” Aileen took out an exquisite mirror that the other girl would’ve appreciated and admired its beauty if it wasn’t such an unfortunate time.
“Here,” she handed the mirror to the other girl. “I’m assuming that you know the story of ‘Beauty and the Beast: the Magical Mirror.’ This mirror is exactly like what you’d expect it to be. Just say who you want to speak to and it’ll let you speak to that person. This is a very special mirror that you could only use once. Keep it safely and speak to me when you get there, Catherine Ann Kasiiopita.”
“How did you know my full name? I didn’t even tell you!” she exclaimed.
“I know a lot about you, Miss Kasiiopita,” Aileen said, mysteriously. “You were meant to do this…” Before Catherine could utter another word, she felt someone else’s presence in the room.
His intensifying sapphire eyes were the first of his good looks that caught her. And that straight dark hair that was the color of the night and went down almost to his ears, complete with a tanned skin tone that matched his handsome appearance perfectly. Oh yes… His fit killer’s body was where she wanted to wrap her willowy arms around and snug into. Catherine just stared at him, awestruck. ‘I shouldn’t have had.’ She thought to herself. It was like a deadly sin to even take a brief look at him.
“Oh hello, Erik! Long time no see!” Aileen ran up toward the gorgeous guy and hugged him tightly and added a little peck on his cheek. (‘Now THAT shouldn’t be allowed,’ Catherine thought.) The figure was oblivious to all of these affectionate gestures. He looked at the girl with the long dark hair that went past her shoulders. Catherine felt self conscious and lowered her gaze. She considered herself as a brunette with a few curves and pale skin; not a flawless blonde supermodel, with the perfect skin tone and body.
With his strong hands, Erik released Aileen’s hold on him.
“I came here for business.” Said Erik seriously, in a calm appealing voice carrying a tint of an accent that made Catherine’s heart beat even faster; if that was even possible.
“Ahhh… All business like again? Pfff! Well, Catherine, this hot guy in one package, is your new companion and guide, Erik. He’s 23 years old so don’t worry,” she said, in a flirtiest tone. “And Erik, this one troubled little girl is in your charge. Her name’s Catherine if you wanted to know, which I doubt,” Aileen said. (Catherine winced) “Make sure she gets to her destination safely!”
“Umm… we’re ‘leaving’? We’ve got no supplies or anything!”
“Hey little girl,” the healer said. “I’m not that stupid. Look behind you.” There were two bags filled with supplies, right behind her.
“I pity you, Erik. To be stuck with such an ignorant girl,” Aileen sighed. “When you could’ve been with ME, the intelligent AND beautiful one.” Catherine felt like cringing when she heard this.
“I AM NOT!” yelled Catherine.
“Shhh! Lower your voice!” hissed Aileen.
“Well good bye, adios, jal ga, or whatever language you want to say ‘good bye!’ Have fun!” Aileen winked at Catherine as she dragged her out the door. Erik followed them out.
“Keep going north and you’ll get there in no time! I’d say…in a day or two.” The healer girl said, thoughtfully.