Certain parts of the following story IS UNDER COPYRIGHT PROTECTION. Do not copy or distribute this story without the author's permission.
I originally began writing this as a School project. It is a Side story to my Immortal Chronicles series, and doesn't follow the main storyline whatsoever. I'm currently hard at work on the actual series at the moment, but I may update this story at some times. Enjoy, and please give me some feedback!
A Fractured ParadiseEdit
Artemis jumped down from the giant tree, landing softly on the ground. He crouched in place for a moment, watching for any Machina soldiers that may have been around, then stood and rushed through the forest. Behind him, his companions, Matthew and Dorian, fell from the same tree, and followed closely behind,
"So... where are we going, Artemis?" Matthew questioned, leaping over a large rock,
"Hush!" Artemis warned, placing a finger over his lips, "Do you want the machines to hear us?"
"Sorry, not everyone can be as quiet as Dorian," Matthew whispered. Dorian smiled, but his green eyes kept looking ahead of him through the forest, silent as the trees they rushed past,
"Why do you think I invited him along?" Artemis asked, ducking under a tree branch. Matthew rolled his eyes,
"Then why did you ask me to join you two," He pointed out, rather smartly,
"Simple, to get you to stop begging," Artemis retorted, smirking. Dorian chuckled, and flipped over a large bush in his way. The trio sped through the thick woods, moving as fast as they would in a wide open meadow, leaping over deep gorges and diving over boulders with masterful skill.
Artemis is 16 years old, and one of the most mature children in his village. He was also one of the best warriors around, able to hold his own against the rest of his class. He was 10 years old when the Machina Regime, a great and evil army of mechanical soldiers, arrived on his home world, Debesis.
The accursed robotic beings had attacked his village, and killed his mother and father. He had fled the village, with Dorian, never to return. They arrived to another village, hidden deep in the Sapitiem Forest and told of their terrible ordeal. They were both taken in by Master Young, their trainer and mentor. Dorian was 13 when the Machina attacked, and hasn't spoken since then.
Matthew was born in the Sapitiem Village, and knew the forest like the back of his hand, which is the real reason why Artemis asked him to join them. However, Matthew's skills where a bit weak compared to Master Young's other students, and he was still "young and foolish", as Master Young said.
As the three of them neared the forest's edge, Dorian suddenly came to a stop and faced in the direction they had just came from,
"Dorian... whats wrong?" Matthew asked, stopping as well. Dorian turned toward Artemis and nodded back towards the village with an annoyed look on his face. Artemis rubbed the bridge of his nose, sighed, and looked back at Dorian,
"Shes following us, isn't she?" He asked, already knowing the answer. Dorian nodded. Artemis sighed again and looked back towards the village, "Alright Lauren, we know you are there," He called out, not worried about the Machina at the moment,
A lovely teenage girl stepped out from behind a tree, her clothes dirty and worn, just as theirs. Her brown hair was long, reaching down to her waist, and she flashed a playful smile,
"What's wrong boys?" She asked, placing her hand on her hip, "Can't stand being followed?"
"No, but in a world where watching your back is a matter of life and death, it's not exactly a comfortable feeling," Artemis replied with a grin,
"You're telling me," She said, walking up to them, "So... where in the world are you three heading this time? Or is it so secret that you don't even know, Arty?" Artemis frowned. He hated when she called him that,
"That's what I asked him a few miles back," Matthew pipped up, sitting down on a stump. He unsheathed a dagger and began sharpening a stick,
"Well, you all know that it has something to do with the Machina..." Artemis began,
"It's ALWAYS something to do with the Machina," Lauren interrupted, walking in a tight circle around the group,
"Yeah, why can't you two ever just... I don't know... explore the forest, like I do?" Matthew asked, testing how sharp the stick was. He drew his finger back with a silent "ouch",
"Because, we are warriors, not explorers. Besides, haven't you already mapped out the entire forest, Matthew?" Artemis asked,
"So? Just because you're warriors, doesn't mean you can't have a little fun, right Dorian?" Lauren said, not letting Matthew answer Artemis' question. Dorian just shrugged in a way to say he doesn't really care,
"Fun? How much fun can you have while always hiding in the shadows?" Artemis pointed out, "You two can go have all the "Fun" you want... Dorian and I are going to go fight for our freedom," He turned and sped down the hill towards the edge of the forest, Dorian following close behind,
"You have to admire his bravery..." Matthew said, standing next to Lauren,
"There's a fine line between bravery and stupidity," Lauren replied, "Sometimes I'm not sure which side of that line Artemis walks on..." She and Matthew took off after the others, leaving the safety of the forest.
It felt good to run through the plains again, Artemis just wished that he could do so without fear of being captured, or worse. The four of them stuck close to the tree line, just in case one of the Machina's Ariel vehicles roared overhead. Usually, the entire village wouldn't be able to sleep, because of the sound of thousands of ships screaming over the Sapitiem Forest. Today, however, there hadn't been a Machina in sight, and some of the villagers believe that the dreaded machines had left their planet, but Artemis knew this wasn't so. Great quantities of black clouds still billowed over the mountains, from the mines that the Machina had set up,
"They will never leave... not unless we make them..." He thought to himself. He looked back at his companions, and realized that he was far ahead of them, "What's wrong you three? Can't keep up?" He joked, but he swallowed his words as an Earth Dragon smashed out of the forest before him. The great beast lashed out with it's tail, launching Artemis a few feet through the air.
Dorian charged forward, smashing his fist against the Dragon's jaw. The monster stumbled but retaliated by striking Dorian with it's snout, throwing the silent warrior over it's spinned back. He landed on his back with a thud, grunting with annoyance. The Dragon turned, lifted it's leg, and brought it crashing down upon the earth where Dorian had been just a second before. Lauren had grabbed Dorian and pulled him out of the way at the last second,
"I can't watch your back forever, Dorian," She smiled, letting him go. The two landed softly on the ground, and dodged a blow from the monster's tail. Matthew slid underneath the Dragon, pounding its unprotected belly with his bare fists, but it did little damage. The beast reared back on its hind legs, roared, and fell downwards toward Matthew. The warrior barely had time to get out of the way, before the Dragon smashed against the ground beneath it,
Artemis rushed into the battle, leaping onto the beast's head and pounding against it's snout. The monster roared in pain, swinging its head around trying to throw Artemis off, but he held fast continuing his assault,
"Lauren! Try paralyzing it's legs!" He yelled out. Lauren closed her eyes, visualizing the beast's every nerve, then charged forward. She flipped over the monster, striking a spot just before it's tail with two of her fingers. With a small pulse of spiritual energy, she caused the Dragon's tail and hind legs to become limp. The beast roared in surprise as it's lower body collapsed to the ground,
"I don't know how long it will last, so whatever you have planned do it now!" Lauren said, dodging a swipe from the Dragon's claws. Artemis nodded, and let the beast throw him off. He flipped through the air, landing beside Dorian and Matthew,
"Help Lauren distract the Dragon," He ordered. Matthew and Dorian nodded, rushing back to Lauren. Artemis inhaled deeply, stretching his arms to either side of him. His concentration was interrupted by the ground shaking beneath his feet. Huge boulders rose from the earth and began swirling around the Dragon. The beast turned towards Artemis, staring with a deep hatred, its snout bruised and swollen, "Oh, this is going to be bad..." Artemis said to himself.
The Dragon roared, launching the giant rocks towards Artemis. The warrior began dodging the massive boulders, unable to focus his spiritual energy. The rocks struck against the ground, leaving ugly craters in the beautiful meadow, and fractured on impact. Artemis couldn't take much more of this. Just as he dodged one, another boulder flew towards him faster then the rest. He couldn't dodge it! Artemis closed his eye and prepared for the bone crushing strike, but it never came. Dorian jumped in front of Artemis, and lashed out against the incoming boulder, his fist surrounded by spiritual energy. The huge rock seamed to explode as it met Dorian's punch, and a large dust cloud shrouded the two warriors from sight.
The Dragon stood, its hind legs coming out of paralysis, lashing out against Lauren and Matthew who, in turn, dodged out of the beast's way. The monster paused, looking back as the dust cloud cleared. Artemis and Dorian stood there, unphased and smiling. Artemis threw out his arms, gathering the spiritual energy from around him. The Dragon growled and began galloping towards him, intent on crushing Artemis. Dorian rushed out before Artemis but was thrown out of the monster's path by Matthew,
"Are you crazy?!" Matthew yelled, looking back at Artemis, who Lauren was rushing to defend. The beast reached him first, rearing up on it's hind legs ready to come crashing down on the warrior. Just then, Artemis opened his eyes, and thrust his arms forward. An explosion of unseen spiritual energy struck the Dragon's exposed underbelly, and the beast was thrown backwards into the forest, toppling everything in its path.
Artemis smiled, and fell to his knees, exhausted from the attack,
"We... we did it..." He panted as Lauren reached him. As he began to stand, she slapped him across the face, but before he could ask why, she embraced him in a hug,
"Nice work, Arty..." She congratulated, releasing him. Dorian and Matthew came over, patting Artemis on the back,
"Thank you, all of you. We make a great team. Now, lets head back home. I think that we've had enough excitement for today," Artemis said, deciding not to continue with his original plans with the Machina. He turned towards the forest and ran back in the direction of the village, the others close behind him.
It was nearly dark when Artemis and the others got back to the village, the entirety of their bodies aching from the fight with the Dragon. Sneaking back through the forest wasn’t too easy either, as they had nearly run into a small Machina patrol. Luckily, the Humanoid, mechanical beings didn’t seem to spot them, or didn’t really care that they did, as they had marched right past without a single word.
They passed through the large wooden and iron gates, and into the village center. The Sapitiem Village was neither large nor beautiful, but to Artemis it was the safest place on Debesis, so he didn’t care a thing about what it looked like or how large it was.
Lauren’s mother called from a small hut in the south-east corner of the village. Lauren gave a small wave and ran off without another word,
"I’d best be going too. That Dragon will look like a six-legged-salamander compared to my father, if I do not get home for supper," Matthew said, rubbing his sore shoulders. He ran off towards the north portion of the village and began to climb the rope-ladder leading up to his home, which was built in the tallest tree around.
Artemis and Dorian exchanged silent nods, and the latter walked off towards their shack in the west portion of the village. Now Artemis stood there in the cold of the night, lost within his own thoughts.
There was always something about the cool breeze and cricket chirps that calmed him so, as if the night was singing him to sleep, urging him to get some rest for the next day. But tonight was different. There were no Cricket chirps or Bat screeches. There was barely even a breeze either. He had a great feeling that something was going to happen soon… something dark, laying just over the horizon so that he couldn’t see it until it was too late to react.
This troubled him to no end, his worries growing ever stronger as he stood there in the village center, in the shadow of the large, memorial Obelisk. The names and titles on the great stone structure seemed to look down upon him, and for a brief second he thought he saw his own name carved into the memorial. He shook his head once, and his name was gone.
"Is something troubling you, Artemis?" The voice of his mentor cut through the silence like an assassin’s dagger, and made him jump,
"Master Young! Forgive me… If I had known you were there I would have greeted you," Artemis apologized, bowing as low as he could to his teacher. Master Young smiled at him from under his Conical Straw Hat, his eyes gleaming with a thousand years of wisdom.
"You need not ask for my forgiveness every time I startle you, my boy. If anything, I should be asking you for forgiveness," The master chuckled, his silvery beard and long hair swayed from the movement. Artemis smiled, but this smile faded away quickly as that odd feeling washed over him once more. Master Young’s smile faded as well and once again he asked if something was troubling Artemis. The young warrior spoke of what he had felt before, about an approaching darkness that no one could stop. His master sighed, and motioned for Artemis to follow him. They went to the Eastern portion of the village and entered Master Young’s Dojo.
Artemis had stepped through those doors and onto the hard, wood floor so many times before, yet he was hesitant this time. Why? He did not know. Master Young sat down, waving his hand over a few candles. The spiritual energy he put forth caused each one to ignite.
"Artemis, what you’re feeling is completely natural in a time of peril and hardship. I too have sensed this dark presence, and have yet to distinguish its source," Master Young explained, "You and I are the only ones in the Village that are able to sense this however, and I wish to keep it that way. I do not wish for others to panic about something that may not take place for a thousand years. Do you understand?" Artemis nodded, but this still didn’t make him feel better. All this did is confirm that something evil is lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on its unsuspecting prey.
"Remember that you have been marked, Artemis," The Master continued, motioning to the ring-like mark upon his student’s ring finger. The Master showed him an identical marking on his own finger, "Those who have been marked are destined to do great and magnificent things. Have no fear, my boy... you’re time will arrive soon, and I have a feeling that whatever outstanding feat you perform will bring an end to this war," And with another smile, Master Young bid Artemis a good night sleep, and led him back out into the airless, quiet night.
He was falling. That was the only explanation that could describe how he felt as he drifted through the dark plain of existence that was his mind. The feeling made his heart race, and his stomach lurch. He tried to call out to someone, anyone that might be able to hear him, but his voice never even reached his own ears. He suddenly landed in a great, green meadow, before him was a village that he recognized as his old home.
He stood there on the outskirts of the village, and contemplated entering to see its Memorial Obelisk, to see the names of his mother and father carved there, to be remembered for all eternity. But a single step forward caused the settlement to burst into flames, the ashes and cinders caking the ground and turning the beautiful, lush meadow into a war-torn, barren wasteland. He drifted into darkness once again, and felt his eyes begin to water. He held back his tears, afraid that giving in to sadness would make him weak. He refused to be weak. He has to stay strong! He was falling…
"Artemis! Artemis! Wake up!" The words that came through the darkness were muffled and inaudible. Who was this Artemis? There was no one else there but him and the dark sea of memories that drifted around him,
"Artemis! Wake up, Damn it!" The voice spoke again. It was louder and more understandable this time, but he still didn’t know who they were yelling at to wake up. He felt a great pressure against his face, and tasted the warmth of his own blood against his tongue. He was Artemis. He had to wake up. Was this truly just a dream? It felt so real.
Artemis woke up immediately as he landed on the hard wood floor, face first. Someone had punched him out of his bed,
"I told you Matthew. All you need to do is be a little more forceful," Lauren said, admitting that she was the one that had hit Artemis,
"What the hell was that for!?!" Artemis yelled, jumping up and glaring at Lauren. She grinned a little, and crossed her arms,
"Matthew tried to wake you up and it didn’t work, so I helped him out. Now quit complaining and put some clothes on, Arty," She replied, blushing a little at Artemis' lack of clothing. Artemis covered himself and rushed into the next room, grabbing the set of combat fatigues he had set out to wear that day. After getting dressed, Artemis found Lauren outside waiting for him,
"Where did Matthew and Dorian go?" Artemis asked, tightening his sash around his waist.
"They went on ahead to Master Young's. You do remember that we have a class today right?" Lauren explained; her voice was genuinely concerned. This puzzled Artemis a little. Lauren almost never showed concern unless in the midst of a battle. Had he been tossing and turning in bed, before she had woke him?
"Like I would forget when we planned a sparring match, Lauren," Artemis retorted, "The last one ended in a draw, and I’ve been waiting to settle it!" Artemis smiled and, very quickly, flashed an "I'm alright" look when their eyes met. Lauren returned his smile, and the two ran off towards the Dojo.
Artemis ducked as the unfortunate student, who had gotten the honor of sparring with Dorian, was thrown out of the sparring area like a rag doll. Dorian turned to Master Young, bowed, and sat back down in his usual place,
"An excellent display of Strength and Endurance, Dorian!" Master Young congratulated, "Artemis, Lauren, please stand," Artemis smiled, he had been waiting for this. As he stood he looked towards Lauren and saw the same competitive gleam in her eye. This was going to be fun.
"Stand before me, you two..." Master Young ordered, "You both know the rules when sparring in my class. No strikes below the belt, no use of Spiritual attacks, and you will halt when I say so..." The Master moved his gaze from Lauren to Artemis as he said this, knowing their combat styles all too well.
"Yes Master," Both students said at once, and bowing to him. They looked back at each other, and moved into their favored fighting stances. Lauren's Cat Stance, against Artemis' Side-Sparring Stance.
"You had best be ready, Arty… I won’t go so easy on you this time," Lauren taunted,
"Same to you, Lauren… I may not be able to use Spiritual attacks, but I still have a few tricks up my sleeves," Artemis replied calmly. The whole class fell quiet as they watched to two of them stare each other down, both of them refusing to give in to the other.
"And… Begin!" Master Young called out. Artemis crossed his back leg behind his front, and stepped forward into a powerful, face-height, side kick. His first attack was lightning-quick, and Lauren barely had time to bring up her arms into a double forearm block. This worked to Artemis' advantage however, as he used Lauren's block as a kind of spring board spinning him around faster to bring an Axe kick up for a second strike.
Lauren saw this attack coming and had plenty of time to dodge out of the way. Artemis' heel struck the padded floor, making a loud smacking sound as it did. Before Lauren could counter-attack, however, Artemis' axe-kick had become a Dragon-Tail Crescent Kick, aimed for the back of her knee.
She jumped over the attack, but now had nowhere else to run as Artemis pushed up using his free leg, and lashed out at her with a Jumping Roundhouse Kick, "Got you!" Artemis exclaimed. But Lauren made him eat his words as she twisted in mid-air and pushed off of his leg with her hands. She flipped over his head, landed, and aimed a roundhouse kick of her own toward the side of Artemis' face. He turned fast enough to catch her leg, but this was merely a distraction as Lauren lifted off the ground with her free leg and lashing out at him with it instead.
He ducked under the second attack, causing Lauren to flip over him and land on all fours in a Crouching Tiger stance. She leaped forward, throwing a spear hand towards Artemis' face, but he used an Inside-Out Knife Hand block to knock her attack aside. Both students jumped backwards to either side of the sparring area to gain a bit of breathing room. Each of them were breathing heavily, but they were nowhere near finished yet.