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For anyone who has read DA Shadow Phantom up through Chapter 22/30, those are volumes 1-4. As a rough guide, each Volume is about 6 chapters. If you've read that many, then you can start with Volume 1 and so on.

Please give me a review on Amazon.com. The books on Amazon are fully edited, but the story is the same. Please Please Please! 
:icondragonprayplz: *begging*

Book List: www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_…

Just click on each book title, and clink on the review link provided there. Thanks :)
The moon was high in the east, having not yet reached its peak. It was a crescent moon, but one that gave off a surprising amount of light for how much of it was visible. Behind it, the darkening sky was a gradient, with the darkest portion towards the highest point in the sky. Above and below the crescent moon, clouds streaked in straight, thin lines, crisscrossing each other. Most of these clouds scarring the sky were not natural but man-made. Covered by the topmost cloudy streak in the sky, a single star man-aged to shine through, to the left and up from the moon. The first star of the evening.

It was just another night, at least at first glance to the casual observer, though one much brighter than ones before it. Even though it was only a crescent moon up, the light it shed was phenomenal, not exactly the kind of night to be doing a heist. Unless, of course, the perpetrators wanted people to notice. That was exactly what was happening. Several rebels, along with the common thugs they had hired to help them pull off this latest venture, were positioned in the northern most part of the Lavvan district. This was the district known by the rest of the city as the ‘white district,’ as high class as it was. It was the part of the city where most of the white collars and silver spoons lived; it also happened to be the district of the city that was the most cooperative with Thanahall.

Ruan Palin spat on the ground in disgust as he crouched in the shad-ows of a particularly large mansion. *What scum!* he thought viciously, looking up at the window of the mansion. *These people whole-heartedly support this bastard government that is holding the entire city hostage from what is transpiring in the rest of the world. No one can see the bigger picture…* Not only was the point of tonight to get people’s attention, there was an-other purpose infused with their main objective that Palin saw. *We’ll punish them, these blasted idiots who ally themselves with their own executioners. And we’ll show people what sort of beast their government really is.* Around him, he could hear the shifting of his men as they crouched in the shadows as well, surrounding the mansion. They were all waiting for the appointed time, when Palin would give the order to move out.

*Even the Shadow Phantom shouldn’t see us until it’s too late this time,* Ruan Palin thought to himself, grinding his teeth. *Unless he has other super human abilities besides speed and his beastlike traits. What that scum did to me last time…* He had a hard time keeping his rage contained at the very thought. When he clenched his fists, they shook.

*He left me out there to be exposed, and I had to broker a deal with those scumbag higher ups in the government just to stay out of their prisons and labs.* His face was very dark, and not just from shadows as he remembered. *I’ve been reduced to the honorless role of a double agent. It was difficult as it was to get the boss not to kill me, let alone convince him that I had escaped so that I could still work for him.* The very memory of his whole confrontation with Jagger Donato—leader of the Zekoyan Rogue Resistance—had Palin nearly squirming in his boots.

The man could only be described as evil. His face was sharp and angular, topped by the fact that he was bald and his skin smooth and ageless, but scarred in more than one place. His eyes were hard and cruel, and his mouth often wore a sadistic little half smile whenever he dealt with just about anyone, even his own men. One of those scars, as had Palin noticed that night he had been brought before the boss, started above his left eye and went straight down, even over the eyelid, ending just before the cheek began.

Frankly, Palin found it amazing that the boss wasn’t blind in that eye, almost like he had some sort of super healing ability. When Jagger’s smile revealed his teeth, it was quite obvious that some of them were jagged. In fact, Palin had even found himself wondering if that wasn’t possibly where the man’s first name had come from. *He may look like the devil himself, but he’s always come through for us, and we need him to have any hope of pulling off a real rebellion.*

Having the suspicion of that man was never a good thing. *I’ll never forgive you for that, Shadow Phantom,* Palin thought as he brushed the memory away like a stray fly. *My knife may not have killed you now, but I swear I will get you one of these days.* His teeth glittered in the faint light as he read the digital readout on his watch. *It’s almost time.*

Up until this point, everything had gone smoothly. There had been no reports of sightings of either night patrols or the Shadow Phantom. Every man out tonight had a radio, so communication was quick. Then, the minutes ticked ahead, and the command was given in an excited but firm half-whisper through the radio. “Move out people! Storm the place, bring out anything valuable, and make sure you give the inhabitants a good scare.” This was one order Ruan Palin enjoyed giving. “Make these nobles squirm for what they’re allowing to happen to our city! We’ve got to put on a good show for any police that show up. Take someone hostage if you have to!”

At that, it would have appeared to any outside observer that the shadows had spawned, as a myriad of shadowy figures came crawling out of the shadows of the previously empty street. Almost as soon as they were on the move, a black bat-winged silhouette appeared in the lower part of the sky, where it could just be seen apart from the rest of the nearly black cityscape below, the combination of the sun’s last rays and the light from the moon providing just enough subtle contrast. The figure swooped down out of the sky as silently as a wraith and so silently that it could easily have been mistaken for a breath of fresh air. In fact, it was. Dalan had already taken out nearly half of the force that had come to besiege the mansion before the others really realized just what was going on.

“It’s that damn Shadow Phantom!” Ruan Palin roared into his radio. “Bring him down—bring him down now!”

Dalan was aware of various shots being fired in his direction, but they weren’t hard to dodge, as none of his targets could see him well enough to aim. In this halfway form especially, Dalan’s keen senses told him exactly where each of the incoming missiles were, as well as their trajectory.

After avoiding each shot, in his dark-winged form cloaked in shadows as he was, Dalan swooped down on the person he who had fired it, taking each per-son out quickly and efficiently. Despite all of that, none of Dalan’s victims had been killed or even suffered any serious or fatal injuries. His keen senses were able to make sure of that. They were merely unconscious or otherwise out of commission.

Amidst all of the other scents, Dalan detected one he recognized from an earlier near-disaster in his line of work. *Ruan Palin?* he thought in alarm, his eyes widening and a growl deepening in his throat. *What is he doing here? Surely he can’t be working with the rebels after we fought…the Athallian night patrols would have picked him up.* With this distraction, despite Dalan’s swift actions in taking down thugs, a few of them did make in in through one of the windows. Before he could really react, an alarm was raised from inside. Lights flickered on in the windows one by one. Dalan squinted and veered away as one of the lights shone suddenly in his face, momentarily ruining his night vision. Soon following, a piercing shriek sounded and continued to go off—this family’s own personal grounds alarm.

*I’d be willing to bet it’s connected to Thanahall somehow,* Dalan groaned to himself, wincing as the sound seemed to tear his head apart and penetrate his brain. *Sometimes it sucks to have keen hearing.* A bit disorient-ed by the assault on his senses, Dalan turned tail and took off.

*There’s not much more I can do here. Some police or other patrol will be here soon anyway, and I don’t want to be seen here, if I haven’t been already.* As the street passed by underneath him, however, before he had gained any real height, Dalan spotted a figure running away from the scene of the crime. His stomach clenched when he realized that the perpetrator was carrying a small child away, crying. *So one of them did manage to kidnap a child?* Dalan snarled at this, inadvertently remembering Nolin. *Not on my watch.*

He swooped down with a vengeance, the palms of both hands and the balls of both feet slamming into the man’s back all at once. At the same time, Dalan managed to rescue the child from the man’s grasp. Purposefully digging his claws into the man’s flesh a bit as he took off into the sky again, Dalan secured the child on his back. “Now hang on tight,” he ordered. As it turned out, it was a little girl, Dalan guessed about three or four years old. Now it was obvious that she had been crying, as he could feel the warm wetness of her tears on the back of his neck, as the child had a death grip around his neck. He could feel the little face buried in his fur where she clung. Her little body was quivering in fright and probably with the cold night air.

*At least she’s not struggling,* Dalan thought. *That would really throw me off balance. And how could that bastard do this to a child? Yanking her out of the safety of her bed and away from her parents? I know this family supports a corrupt government, but small children should have nothing to do with this.* This last thought came out as a growl.

Then, realizing that he was further scaring his little passenger, Dalan quieted down his rage and turned his attentions to her. “Hey, it’s okay,” he said in a gentle voice aimed back at the child. “You don’t have to be afraid. I’m a friend.”

He felt the little girl shake her head. “No!” she wailed. “Want my mommy!”
“Alright, alright,” Dalan tried again to soothe her. “Let’s go find your mommy, okay?” The child nodded but didn’t stop crying. “Can you tell me what your name is?”

He felt the child shake her head. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Not a’spose to talka s’rangers,” she enunciated into his neck fur.

“Is that so?”

Dalan had just been trying to get her to calm down up until this point. Now, he had to keep on the lookout for a way to return the child discretely to the house without being seen himself.

*I could always try to return her through one of the windows,* was his first thought, *if any of them are open, that is.* He tilted his wings into the breeze, circling the sizeable mansion as he looked. *Just my luck. All locked.* Below, he could hear people from inside the house outside on the lawn, probably to look for signs of the fleeing rebels. There was no sign of Ruan Palin anywhere. *So that coward jumped ship as soon as things started going downhill,* Dalan observed. As he watched the scene below, the front door opened, and a woman came running out.

“Rita! Where are you? Rita!” She ran over to a man standing on the stone walkway winding through the lawn. “Albert, have you seen Rita anywhere? I can’t find her. I—I think they might have taken her.” She seemed to be on the verge of tears. Albert took her in his arms, looking very perturbed and worried himself about what he had just learned.

On hearing that voice, the child on Dalan’s back lifted her head. “Mama!” she called.
Dalan winced. *Great, I have no choice now.*

With the child’s cries, Dalan knew it would not be long before some-one looked in the right direction. Swerving back towards a dark end of the yard, Dalan touched down as quickly and quietly as he could. Then he carefully lowered his passenger to the grass as he did so, just as soon as the mother had registered her child’s cries, the woman looked over. Her eyes widened as she caught sight of Rita and what looked to her to be a large shadow creature standing over her.

“Hey!” the mother screeched, running over as quickly as she could. “Leave my little girl alone, you brute!” Her husband soon followed at a run, his overtaking hers. Ears laid back, Dalan left the child and took off, swiftly disappearing into the night before either of them could reach him.

***

The moon was high in the east, having not yet reached its peak. It was a crescent moon, but bright behind the unnatural streaked clouds criss-crossing it. Behind it, the darkening sky was a gradient, with the darkest portion towards the highest point in the sky. The single star was shining through the dirty haze giving the deep blue of the sky an unnatural grey sheen. The black bat-winged silhouette floated in the lower part of the sky, where it could just be seen apart from the rest of the nearly black cityscape below, the combination of the sun’s last rays and the light from the moon providing just enough subtle contrast.

Directly below lay the northern part of Athallia, where the Nastiar River passed under the bridge that shared its name. From this height, the river resembled a sluggish black snake meandering its way along. During the day, the river was a murky brown, its sluggish flow affected by the mire and silt, along with whatever else that polluted the water. Even from this height, Dalan could plainly smell the stench from whatever chemical waste had been dumped into the mix that was supposed to be water. To be perfectly honest, the very thought of what had been done to this river made him sad.

He flew on from there, his arms having billowed out into their newest wing state. Furling his wings, he dove, hurtling through the air to leave the river behind him as he plunged further into the cityscape. Dalan scanned the streets beneath him, as he was in the habit of doing many nights.

The news reports during the day sometimes gave him clues as to where to look at night, either via television, newspaper, or what he could find on the internet from the computer he had recently gotten put in his room. It was an old one from his father’s office, as his father had upgraded, but Dalan didn’t mind in the slightest. All that mattered was that it enabled him in his work, both school-related and for what he considered to be his real work—protecting the people of Athallia that were often preyed upon by those that considered themselves stronger or more privileged.

Dalan now focused his attention on the streets beneath him. Tonight, he noticed, they seemed empty, even despite the curfew law. They usually were not crawling with people or vehicles, but there were usually always a few prowlers that Dalan always kept his eye on. The streets seemed utterly abandoned tonight. His wings took him over street after street on an air current, but his senses told him the same thing. No one was around, not anywhere close by anyway. This lack of activity was giving him a serious foreboding feeling. That feeling sank like a cold stone to the bottom of Dalan’s stomach.

*What is going on down there?*

Even as he gave vent to this thought, at last some sounds came to his ears. It was hard to tell how far away they were or even where they were coming from. They manifested themselves from all sides, together sounding like a howling wind. As the collective sound moved between the buildings and through telephone poles, the low howl seemed to become a hum all around him. It was an unnatural sort of hum, just like the straight lines of clouds streaking the sky, not a sound found in nature.

The sound was more machine-like.

Dalan could not tell just what was going on. All he knew was that the hum soon dominated his entire world. It surrounded him on every side now, blocking out his senses more and more the closer whatever it was got. He got the vague sense of figures moving in on him, encircling him, but he couldn’t see who or what it was. Dalan did not really remember falling or even being caught. All he knew was that he had, indeed, been caught by someone or something that could take him out without even getting close. Then, the world no longer existed. Blackness reigned in its stead, and Dalan was trapped in a numb, senseless abyss.

Dalan jerked awake, bolting upright in bed. *That’s right,* he remembered. *I’m in my own bed at home.* Even this knowledge could not stop his heart from thudding wildly inside his chest as if trying to escape. From what the clock on his bed stand said, it was two in the morning.

*And now I can’t sleep,* Dalan grumbled to himself, shoving his long bangs back from his face with one sweaty hand. *Not after that dream…again.*

It had been so vividly real that Dalan still could not shake the feeling of having his senses taken away—no, it was more like ripped away from him. It really did feel like he was being torn apart from the inside out. He was huddled over in bed, gasping for he didn’t know how long after that. For a while now after Nolin’s tragedy, Dalan’s dreams had all ended like this every night, no matter how they’d started to begin with. Tonight was a bit different, however. Dalan did not know how long it took him to jerk awake. All he knew was that he had not woken up immediately. Despite having lost his senses, though it was in dream form, he had felt himself being brought down…falling…

He couldn’t tell who it was that had shot him down or with what, as he could not see or hear—with all of his senses gone but that numbness. The next thing he knew, he felt his body thud into the unyielding ground. Even that didn’t kill him in the dream. Or maybe it did, and Dalan had descended into a place that he could easily imagine being hell. It came in the form of a bunch of jumbled images. What he could gather from them was that it was someplace faceless and grey, neither warm nor cold. It simply was, a bleak and empty prison, and he was trapped in it, unable to move. It was the same place Dalan had seen once in a dream, a place he had been desperate to run away from.

*I haven’t had that dream since summer school after freshman year…* he’d realized after he had managed to wake up at last, *when I was asleep in Rezza’s class.*

Much of what had appeared in Dalan’s dream was real. He had been across the Nastiar Bridge many times, and he had even flown over it a couple of times, especially after the rebels had named it as their meeting place to retrieve the released prisoners. Thanks to Dalan, with a little help from Heather, that meeting had never occurred. Regardless, Dalan had deemed it a good idea to check the place out. Even though he hadn’t really found anything upon inspection, it was always good to cover one’s bases. Besides that, Dalan really had been surveying the city by air at night sometimes.

Also, he knew from experience just how real the stench coming from the river was. With his enhanced sense of smell, even from high above the water, the smell was enough to make him heady. Walking on the sidewalk over the bridge, well, even having his face covered, Dalan’s entire head had been pounding the whole time—every time. Even from inside a vehicle, the stench was still pretty strong.
With a sigh, Dalan got up and went over to his computer, which now dominated the corner where his mirror used to be. The mirror had been moved so that it now stood next to his closet door.

Switching the computer on, Dalan sat in the chair he had placed at the desk for that purpose, drumming his fingers on the surface of the desk as he waited. A minute or two later, the computer had booted up, and Dalan typed in his password. As soon as he was fully logged in, he pulled up the internet. One thing he had noticed that he had never really thought about that much before was just how isolated Athallia really was even from the rest of the state, as well as the rest of the country. Any page that he could pull up on the internet was strictly localized.

*That is strange,* Dalan thought as he read through some of the latest news reports. *The only accessible data is that which is hosted here in Athallia, and it is only research information that has been passed through and approved by the Athallian central government. They really do have a tight fist on people.*

He scrolled down a page with an article on an event that had hap-pened before the rebel hijacking of the school. *Why has no one noticed?* he asked himself. Dalan froze, reading a certain section of the page more care-fully. “Probably because they’ve been obscuring at least half of the truth from everyone,” he growled quietly. “Like this robbery. I was there, and I know it was rebel-induced. They should know it too, because I left the guy in charge of the robbery out cold for the police to take into custody. And all the report has to say about it is that ‘it was an incident of random, passionate crime?’ It was obvious that a certain area of the city was being targeted!” He gritted his teeth.

As he clicked the link to go to a different page that had been written after the latest near-incident in the Lavvan district, Dalan paused as a certain article caught his eye, especially the headline. It read: SHADOW PHANTOM: DARK ANGEL OR DEMON? Below, the article went on to give a report about various sightings. *Someone saw me flying the other night,* Dalan thought in mild alarm as he continued to read down the article.

Several citizens have reported seeing a large winged figure at night over various districts of the city. While some witnesses described the figure as, “a dark angel watching over us,” oth-ers described it as “a demon swooping down as an omen of doom.”

This Shadow Phantom often patrols the streets at night, taking down other suspicious persons, some of which have merely managed to escape detection by the curfew patrols. There are still not many leads as far as where this creature goes when it is not patrolling our streets, of any sort of hideout.

“While this so-called Shadow Phantom does take down many of the city’s top, most terrible criminals, there aren’t many clues as to its motives or true nature,” says Officer Desean Kaness, addressing the current situation. “There’s no way to know if it’s even human at all. For all we know, with the way it seems to prefer skulking in the shadows, it could just be a manifestation of the darkest side of the human soul.”

“It would be in the average citizen’s best interest to re-port any suspicious persons and to always be indoors before curfew,” Kaness adds. “There is no telling what this creature is capable of or when it will end up killing someone.”

As of yet, the Shadow Phantom has left no casualties, but recent victims have been left severely injured, some with bloody gashes covering the face and arms, reminiscent of being mauled by a large predator. Others have suffered broken bones and concussions and have even spent weeks in under special medical care before a mode of justice concerning their deeds could be determined.
According to one young mother in the Lavvan district, two nights ago, she spotted the Shadow Phantom trying to make off with her four-year-old daughter, Rita, in the middle of the night. The woman and her husband ran after the crea-ture and, luckily, got there in time to rescue Rita, who was crying.

Article by staff writers of the Athallian Prophet ™ news provider

If anyone has any pertinent information pertaining to the Shadow Phantom, please contact the Athallian Center of Justice:

#0-100-01
Department of Justice and Civilian Safety
Thanahall Dist., Athallia

Director Nicolaus Maeldon


A strange feeling had been churning in Dalan’s gut as he read through the article twice. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t seen or heard reports like this before. Now, his situation just seemed more official. *Now even the director at Thanahall has added his signature to the mix like some stamp of approval on what people have been saying about me,* Dalan gulped. He tried to shrug off all of the uneasy feelings stirring in his gut. *I guess that I’ve been doing my job, to some degree at least. And of course I haven’t killed anyone! Haven’t they figured it out yet that Shadow Phantom is not a killer?*

With a heavy sigh, Dalan shoved his chair back and stood, walking over to stand by the window. *No, I suppose not. They don’t much like what they can’t control.* His brow was furrowed, his eyes shadowed deep in his face. *Well, there’s no point in worrying about it now. It’s not like I’m going to hide while I could be using my abilities to protect people.* He glanced up at the inky sky, but there wasn’t much to see, as tonight was the night of the new moon, after it had waned from its crescent state. A few pinpoints of faded light masquerading as stars were barely visible beyond the cityscape. This was the world it was Dalan’s job to protect.

***

The next day at school, Dalan found it very hard to focus on any-thing. Even in woodshop, Dalan couldn’t focus on what he was doing with his project. Luckily for him, by this point, it was nearly done. There were just the finishing touches to put on it now. Mr. Tallenook had allowed him to continue a project from last semester: the clock tower. The outside had been mostly finished, but Dalan had wanted to make it a working model, which meant creating all of the gears inside, as well as the timing mechanism. As astute as he was, Dalan knew just how to do it, and what he didn’t know, he could figure out.

He’d finished shaping all of the gears by now—out of a hard, dark wood that he had polished until it almost shown like new metal, as working with wood befitted this class. Now he was in the process of fitting them together and getting the time mechanism figured out to get the clock near the top of the tower to work like an actual clock. Today, however, his heart wasn’t in his work. He still could not get that night out of his head.

*The way that mother looked at me…* Dalan felt numb at the expression he remembered so clearly, one that went beyond fear. *She looked at me in utter horror, and in the report, I was practically described as a bloodthirsty demon that hadn’t gotten its first taste of blood yet.* He hung his head, bending low over his project, although he wasn’t really looking at it, but through it into the abyss his mind had created for him.

“Dude, you okay?”

Dalan at last looked up at a hand waved in front of his face. “What?” was all he could say, blinking in the light that was above him in the ceiling.

“Finally!” Matt’s voice exclaimed. “I’ve been trying to get your attention, man. So, what’s up? It’s like you’ve been avoiding me all day.”

At last, Dalan’s gaze locked onto his friend’s face. “Oh, I’m sorry, Matt,” he said at least somewhat sincerely. He snapped into friend mode, trying to forget what had happened. “I wasn’t trying to avoid you, honest. I’ve just had a lot on my mind.” He plastered an easy-going smile across his face, shrugging.

“Yeah, I’ll say!” Matt agreed, clapping a hand to his forehead dramatically. “It’s like you’re on some other planet, leaving your poor, not-so-lucky friends behind.” He staggered backwards as if imitating a perpetually dazed person. One more step back, and he tripped over the stool that he was supposed to have been using and fell flat on his rear end. As he did so, the sunglasses that he was always wearing were knocked askew so that they were down around his nose and mouth instead of his eyes.

He glared as Dalan snickered. “So, really man, what is going on with you?” Matt asked again pointedly as he climbed back to his feet before righting his glasses. “You’ve been distracted a lot, man. It ain’t natural.”

Dalan shrugged again. “It’s nothin’ really.” He sighed. When Matt was this persistent, it was hard to shake him off, even though the guy was one big goof most of the time. “It’s family stuff, ok?” He fell silent after that. What he had told Matt was sort of the truth, though it was quite a stretch, but there was nothing else to tell him now that he would accept.

“Whatever, man,” Matt tried again, then launched into a different topic. “Where’d that Corvo kid go anyway?”

“Don’t tell me you noticed just now that he’s not here, after he’s been out of school for nearly a couple of weeks,” Dalan jumped on the topic, berating his friend with an all-in-good-fun sort of demeanor. “Where’ve you been, man?”

Matt shrugged. “He doesn’t like me for some reason, so I didn’t see him all that much even when he was here. Anyway, finals are comin’ up. You ready? And after that, vacation!” he elongated the last word in a sing-song sort of way that made Dalan snort with laughter. “Oh yeah, a little break for summer vacation!” There was a huge grin on Matt’s face that turned into mock sympathy as soon as his eyes locked back onto Dalan. “Unless of course you’re stuck in summer school again.”

Dalan shook his head in answer. “Not me, not this time. I passed all my classes this year.” His eyes were bright as he said this in earnest.

Matt jumped backwards dramatically as if in total shock, running the risk of tripping over his stool yet again. “Whoa man! You—pass? Will the wonders never cease?”

Dalan gave him a tolerant smile. “You’ve known me forever, Matt. You know I can get whatever grade I want. I’ve just found it a waste of time.”

“So, let me get this straight,” Matt began with a sly smile, “You want-ed to fail last year and go to summer school, is that it?” He winced as his friend slugged him in the arm. “Ow!” He raised his fist to slug him back, but froze in midair as he spotted Mr. Tallenook coming in their direction. Matt reluctantly grabbed his stool and returned to his work station.

“Yes, Mr. Tallenook, of course we’re working hard over here,” Matt said before the woodshop instructor could get a single word out. He set about sanding four somewhat lopsided-looking pieces of wood with a renewed vigor.

“And how do you expect those to fit together into a bench, eh, Mr. Spencer?” Tallenook asked with a raised eyebrow. He shook his head in resignation. “Well, since you are working so hard on them, I suppose you’ll figure that out, won’t you?”

“Yes sir,” Matt said with a sheepish grin, rubbing one hand over the back of his head.
Tallenook glance over at Dalan, but the teen’s thoughts were elsewhere once again.

*Summer break,* Dalan thought, returning to his pensive mood, *that means the twins’ birthday, and they’ll probably have a party. Well, I guess that’s the one bit of normalcy I’ll get. I’ll survive, as long as no one pushes me in the pool again.* The party last year had been a near-disaster for Dalan. If Heather hadn’t been there to fish him out, he most likely would have drowned. *Still, Heather is my best friend, and Jinae would never let me live it down if I didn’t show up.* Dalan scrubbed a hand across his forehead to bring himself back to the present.

He made a greater effort to focus on this project sitting in front of him. The pristine workmanship of the structure, right down to the miniature gargoyle sculptures and molding, was indeed quite stunning. It testified to just how skilled Dalan’s fingers were when he put his mind to it and how keen his mind could be. With a faint smile of pride, Dalan ran one finger along the structure, around the highly polished clock face. It really was beautiful, and this was just what it looked like from above, as Dalan had flown over the real structure many times by now. It remained a place of refuge for him.
Chapter 23/31 - Night of the Crescent Moon
Being a hero isn’t always easy. In fact, it rarely is. Not everyone is appreciative, especially when it is a near-demon look-alike that does the saving. But can Dalan overcome the persecution and continue to use his gifts for good while still keeping his identity a secret? Can he learn to forgive himself and move on when things sometimes go wrong?

All this, and he still has to survive high school...


***Hey everyone. The story has a new format now, hence the odd chapter numbers.  What was chapter 22 is now chapter 30. But don't worry, besides some editing, you haven't missed anything. I know it's been a while  since I'e posted. I've been working like crazy on the graphic novel for this story. I may be testing that out at some point.

:icondragongrin: Also, the first four volumes (aka 30 chapters) of this story are up on Amazon.com.These are the fully edited and formatted version, including some chapter art. Please check them out! Here: www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_… :icondragoncryingplz:


Note: :iconaundriel: 
is collaborating with me on this story from Chapter 5 on, helping me out with some of the scenes and characters.

Story folder: nykol-haebrd.deviantart.com/ga…
Previous Chapter: nykol-haebrd.deviantart.com/ar…
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Dalan was in somewhat of a daze after his fight. From what he had gathered, those guys had been disgruntled construction workers that had been taking out some serious frustrations. However, Dalan did have to admit that having the excuse of saving Zuak and the others had helped a bit to deal with his own.

Now, he walked down the street, head down as he let the city pass him by. It was late afternoon now, with the sun sinking lower and lower in the western sky.
As he passed skyscrapers that probably belonged to some business or other, he noticed that a few of the billboards had been replaced by large flat screens suspended above the traffic. These screens showed moving images and streaming text advertising the latest products hot on the market.

“I guess they’ve made some upgrades,” Dalan muttered to himself. He had seen the construction going on for a while but had never thought anything of it at the time. “I’d be willing to wager that this is why most of the workers didn’t want to help with the Saint Jaimes group. Progress.’
It was so peaceful being with his own thoughts that Dalan could almost ignore the sounds parading on his eardrums as vehicles and swarms of people passed him. He could also almost ignore the overwhelming scent of exhaust from the vehicles. There was also that fresh asphalt from a street or two over where more construction was being done on the roadway.

Since Dalan had always lived in the city, he had never really noticed all of these sensations before. Now, he had time to do nothing but take in the world around him… if he did not want to think too much. For the time being, he did not really want to think about anything.

“DALAN!”

Dalan’s head snapped up in surprise. He looked around for the source of the voice that had practically screamed his name.

“By all that is holy, it is so irritating trying to track you down!” Corvo grumbled as he jumped down from the fence he’d been walking along.

Now Dalan was really confused. Why had Corvo been trying to track him down? He hadn’t seen the kid pretty much since that incident with the costume club and the cat.
Corvo continued to berate him.

“Seriously, you run out on my brother like that? What was he to think? He asked me to try and find you as you’d likely refuse to let him get close to you.”
Dalan stared at the ground. He was silent for over a minute. “It was nothing personal,” he said at last. “But I have no intention of explaining myself anymore, not right now anyway. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to.”

“Daelach didn’t need your explanations, Dalan,” Corvo said gently.
Dalan showed no signs of having heard, but Corvo had no doubt he had. He knew how keen the other’s hearing was. Dalan did let himself fall into step beside his friend, however. Corvo gave a heavy sigh as he stuffed his hands into his pockets.

“Dalan...” he trailed off, unsure of how to put his thoughts into words that his friend would actually listen to. Corvo glanced over and met Dalan’s amber gaze briefly before turning his attention down to the sidewalk.

“Never mind, you probably wouldn’t listen anyway.”

To be completely honest, Dalan was actually a bit relieved not to be talking. He appreciated the company though. He didn’t want to be truly alone. His hands went into his pockets too, subconsciously mimicking Corvo.

“Daelach told me what happened. At the school,” Corvo clarified. He swallowed as guilt over what happened threatened to consume him. “I can understand the guilt you feel,” he whispered.
Dalan shrugged but didn’t say anything.

“You don’t believe me,” Corvo said flatly.

“It’s not that,” Dalan muttered at last. “I just don’t wanna talk about it.”

“You’ll have to talk about it eventually,” Corvo said gently. “But if you don’t want to talk about it yet, I can understand that.”

“I’d appreciate it,” Dalan said abruptly.

“Huh?” Corvo asked in confusion. “Appreciate what?” Getting answers from Dalan just now was like pulling teeth, Corvo realized.

“Not talking now.”

“Oh,” Corvo said quietly. “Do you mind listening to me talk about it then?”

Dalan shrugged again.

“I’m going to take that to mean that you don’t mind. He was my friend too you know.” Corvo swallowed several times before he glanced into Dalan’s eyes. Dalan did not return the gaze. His amber eyes were downcast. “At least you were there,” Corvo whispered miserably.

His eyes squeezed shut. “I was selfish,” he said in a voice made rough with the strength of his emotions. “If I had not been acting like a spoiled brat, I would have been in school that day. Maybe if I had been there, I could have protected him.”

After a moment, he chuckled to himself. “It wouldn’t have been the first time I protected him,” he said with a mysterious grin as he tried to bring an actual response out of Dalan. “Ever wonder why the pranks on Nolin stopped?” he asked.

Dalan’s eyes shifted to Corvo briefly. “It doesn’t matter anymore,” he said hoarsely, feeling the burning in the corners of his eyes as he fought the tears again.

“No, I don’t suppose it does,” Corvo replied as he moved to stand in front of Dalan. He tried to keep Dalan’s eyes locked with his, but Dalan turned away. “He really was a great kid, wasn’t he?”
“Yeah,” Dalan said. No matter how hard he tried, he could not keep his voice from cracking. “He really was.”

“Dalan, there is no shame in crying,” Corvo said gently.

“No, I’m fine,” Dalan replied unconvincingly. “Really.” He looked back to Corvo, dry-eyed.

“I’ve probably shed an ocean’s worth of tears myself,” Corvo said seriously. He then proceeded to jabber away in manner that really began to grate on Dalan’s nerves.

“But seriously, crying helps cleanse your heart and soul. And, Dalan? I can feel how woefully out of balance you are. Not to mention you reek of grief and despair. Unfortunately, I am rather familiar with the scents of those emotions. I’ve smelled them far too often on myself and my brother, and yes, I do have a keen sense of smell like he does.”

At this, Dalan stopped and backed away from him. “What is it with you?” he demanded. “First Daelach, now you... You talk far too much, you know that? I don’t need this. I never asked for any of this!” He turned, on the verge of running away again.

“Dalan,” Corvo snapped angrily, “we care about you. Both of us are very strongly predispositioned to helping people, especially those we care for. You could no more ask us to stand idly by and not help those we love than we could ask you not to protect the innocents of this city. Doing so would deny our own nature.”

Dalan was sure Corvo hadn’t heard even half of what he’d said. *It’s really demeaning to be lectured at by practically everyone I know,* he grumbled to himself, *and that’s when I understand what the heck they’re talking about.* There was a growl deep in his throat, but he didn’t release it.

“I just need some space, that’s all,” he finally said.

“Just need some space, eh?” Corvo repeated, unconvinced. “Is that why you ran from my brother as soon as he touched on this subject? He was quite detailed in his call about how much you hurt him by running away like that.” His sapphire eyes narrowed as he glared at Dalan’s back. “Why did you run anyway?”

As they walked further into the downtown area, Dalan glanced up at the big screens strung between the buildings. They were the size of billboards, so they were easy to see from some distance away. The screens showed a variety of moving pictures, from the newest products to who was running for which positions on the city council.

But there was only so long he could pretend to be distracted this way.

“I don’t like being pushed,” Dalan said at last. He hesitated, realizing just how stupid this would sound. “And he laughed at me.”

Corvo’s eyes narrowed. “That’s not the way he told it. Yes, I admit that his laughing was an ill-advised move. But from his perspective, you’d just essentially accused him of being nothing more than an animal.”

Dalan snorted. “I called myself an animal,” he muttered. “He’s got nothing to do with this. Daelach has to learn not to be so touchy.”

“My brother is hardly pushy, at least compared to me,” Corvo replied with a grin that seemed half feral, ignoring the last whisper from Dalan that he had overheard regardless. He didn’t get a response to this comment.

Dalan stood stiffly, staring at the giant screen nearest them. It showed images of a moving monorail, going back and forth between shots of the sleek insides to beautiful sunset shots of the silent machine flying over tracks that arched over the city. The ad went something like this:


Go on vacation without going
far beyond your own backyard.
Discover the finer points of Athallia
With Monorail Trio
(Clean City Consortium)™.


All Dalan could do was stare at it for now as the ad replayed over and over again. His emotions were cloudy again, so he couldn’t be sure just how well this distraction was hiding them. The ad merely blurred past his eyes, unread. He rubbed the back of one hand over his mouth, right where one of the construction workers had managed to deck him.

Corvo’s eyes were closed partway as he gazed at the back of Dalan’s head. His long black lashes were particularly striking against the intense vivid blue of his eyes. “The element of my brother’s personality that makes him so pushy runs much more strongly in me,” Corvo was explaining with that same wide grin across his face. For a few moments, his pupils flickered.

For the briefest of moments, the pupils were slits. Not that Dalan was really paying him that much attention right now. Dalan wasn’t even facing Corvo, but he could sense the difference in him. The weird energy in the kid was stronger. It was the exact same feeling Dalan had gotten from him that day when Corvo had blown up at the girls keen on forcing him into a dress.

“You haven’t been at school since the day we were kidnapped by the costume club,” Dalan said abruptly, changing the subject. “Where exactly have you been?” It was not like Dalan really wanted to know. He just wanted to shift the spotlight over to Corvo for a change.

“If you want an answer, look at me,” Corvo replied a bit harshly. “I do not like carrying out conversations with people’s backs.”

Dalan turned around to face him again. His gaze was level, not at all betraying the emotion his voice had.

“I’ve been hiding,” Corvo replied at last without really going into any useful detail. “I thought that much was rather obvious.”

“I gathered that,” Dalan growled. He looked away again. “Actually, I was too. Hiding, that is.”
“My brother felt no need to force me to attend school. He was rather sympathetic to my plight.”

The pair continued to walk, though Dalan just let his feet wander.

Corvo sighed heavily as he kept pace with his friend. After a while, Corvo grew aware that they seemed to be avoiding a particular section of the city. They had crossed all the way out of the Sephara district, as evidenced by the tall buildings and advertising screens.

“Dalan, why don’t you want to go home?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.

Dalan shrugged again.

“Quit being so taciturn,” Corvo grumbled. “If you don’t want to talk about what happened, fine. But you can still talk. Choose another topic of conversation!”

Dalan looked up from the pavement at last. “If you know me at all, you know I’m not overly gabby,” he shot back irritably. “I usually let Matt do all the talking. You talk.” He rubbed his mouth again with one hand. Already, the cut on his lip, as well as the surrounding bruise, had begun to heal.

“Yes, I do know you. I apologize, Dalan, I should have realized,” Corvo said with a resigned sigh. “I have not been myself for a while now. I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”

Dalan nodded and grunted in response. His hands went into his pockets again. Corvo’s attention was suddenly drawn to Dalan’s lip. Until now, he’d somehow managed to let the injury go overlooked.

“What happened?” he asked as his eyes widened. “Do you need anything for that? I think I might have something that could help.” He began feeling around inside his jacket pockets.

“Oh, this?” Dalan asked, touching his lip again. “It’s no big deal. I ran across Zuak and some of his group. They’d run into some trouble with construction workers apparently protesting what they’re doing with the senior care center.” Dalan slammed one fist into his other hand. “The scuffle actually helped me feel better.” As he said this, one corner of his mouth lifted into a little half-smile.

“Would more of one help you even more?” Corvo asked as an echoing smile pulled at his own lips.

Dalan met his gaze. “What did you have in mind?” There was real interest gleaming in his eyes now.
“A fight. You and me, friendly of course. Closer to sparring, but I give you permission not to hold back.” He paused, thoughtful for a moment. “There is a style that I think you would be very well suited for. I’ll demonstrate it for you.”

The smile that was barely a shadow on Dalan’s face widened. *Heather said he was good,* he thought. *Now it’s time to test his skills. I want to know what else he’s got.*

“Lead on,” Dalan said.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Corvo replied as his own smile widened.

He suddenly broke out into a rather quick jog as he headed towards his own home. They weren’t far from it now, thanks to Dalan. “Try and keep up,” Corvo said with a gentle taunt.

Dalan easily kept up pace with him. As they jogged, he felt his troubles slipping away behind him in the breeze that tugged at his clothing. Corvo pulled ahead and used a trash can as a vaulting platform to reach the fence. He ran along the top of the fence as easily as if he was running down the middle of the sidewalk.

With a grin, Dalan followed him, launching himself up onto the fence. He felt remarkably at home, even though he was running on something narrower than his own feet. Even so, he found himself speeding up until he was right on the smaller kid’s tail.

*I had no idea he was so nimble,* Dalan thought briefly. *This is gonna be fun.*

Corvo glanced back over his shoulder. “I’d make use of your abilities to remain hidden. What we’re about to do isn’t exactly legal. That’s assuming you can even follow me.”

Even as he said this, shadows had already been gathering closer to Dalan. The more he let his troubles go and allowed himself to have fun, the more his inner creature came to the surface. They began to pass out of the downtown area and into a more extravagant residential neighborhood.

“Of course I can follow you. What makes you think otherwise?” Dalan’s teeth showed as he spoke.

“Oh, really?” Corvo shot back. He suddenly leapt up and sideways into a rather large tree that was growing in the backyard they passed by.

Corvo ran along the branches of the tree at breakneck speed. He leapt from one tree to the next without any sign of hesitation. Two trees later, he leapt onto another fence and took off at a sprint once more.

Dalan followed. With very little effort, he took Corvo’s route through the trees. Not that this exercise was much more difficult than scaling buildings, which was what he was more accustomed to. He landed on the fence only a split second after Corvo had, and he was not far behind.

Corvo glanced back when he felt the fence quiver slightly at the impact. “That was too easy,” he called back. Then, just because he was having so much fun, Corvo executed a forward flip and landed on his feet and kept running as though he hadn’t done anything unusual.

Dalan grinned. “Show-off,” he muttered, his tone playful.

Corvo snorted. “If you don’t use it you lose it,” he retorted.

With a single powerful bound, Dalan sped up and performed a leapfrog over the smaller kid’s head. He kept going, hurtling along the fence at double Corvo’s speed. When the fence ended, he leaped onto the nearest rooftop, a leap that spanned a cross street.

“Who’s a show-off now?” Corvo called.

Dalan waved and leaped to another roof. He had realized by now where they were going.
Instead of using a roof to help him cross the street, Corvo did something that required considerably more skill. He leapt up onto a signpost then launched himself up higher and onto a streetlight. By this time, he had enough height, so he leapt forward off the streetlight and landed squarely on the fence that spanned a yard on the other side of the street.

Dalan merely shook his head and increased his speed over the rooftops even more. Now, he was very nearly at full speed. His movements rendered him little more than a blur, not that anyone else would see him anyway, with his shadow disguise.

“Try and keep up now,” he laughed quietly, half to himself. The sun was now setting, throwing the world around them into a scarlet-gold light.

Corvo realized quickly that the odds were very low that he would be able to catch up with Dalan unless he changed the rules. *Should I?* he asked himself as he watched the blur that was his friend. *Well, I wouldn’t want him to wait too long for me to get home.*

Corvo’s power shimmered around him for a moment before he suddenly vanished midstride from the fence. He reappeared hard on Dalan’s heals. Dalan felt his friend’s power but didn’t look back.
He leaped from the latest rooftop to a lamppost, mimicking almost perfectly Corvo’s last move. Pausing there, balanced on top of it for a split second, Dalan looked back. He stared as his companion stayed hard on his tail.

*No, he couldn’t have,* Dalan thought as he leapt from the lamppost onto another rooftop. *He was far behind one second and almost running into me the next.*

Now they were only a few streets away from the Ravenstrike residence. No matter how fast Dalan sped, Corvo somehow managed to keep up, always right on his heels now.

It was only a minute or two before the mansion loomed up before them. When they dashed up onto the front porch, Corvo wasn’t breathing hard at all. Dalan’s cheeks were flushed red with excitement, though he wasn’t breathing as hard as he’d expected either. It could be an adrenaline rush, not that he stopped to consider it.

Corvo glance back over his shoulder as he worked his key in the lock. “You know, you’re in awfully good shape,” he said as a grin pulled at his lips. “I’m pleasantly surprised that you seem to have a stamina similar to mine.”

Dalan grinned, jerking his thoughts back to the present. “You think so?” he said as Corvo led the way inside, tossing the keys into a bowl on a little table by the front door. “I wasn’t aware before just how quick and nimble you are yourself.” He shook his head. “You’re the first person to keep up with me when I’m not holding back on my speed. I guess we’re more alike than I thought.” Dalan sighed.

Corvo shrugged. “I was trying to pass myself off as being a normal teenager at school. I am not surprised you were unaware of my more unusual abilities.”

“So where are we going to do it?” Dalan said finally. “The sparring match, I mean.”

“In here,” Corvo said as he opened the door to a very unique room.

Mirrors lined three of the four walls, covering every square inch. There was one entrance into the room, and it was situated on the only wall that had no mirrors. Two couches were against that wall on either side of the door, providing seating for potential watchers. The room itself was large to spar in for sure without having to worry about running into the walls too much. In one corner was a small end table that was fairly tall. There was an elaborate looking wooden box on it that appeared to have a hinged lid.

Dalan looked around for a full minute before he realized that his mouth was hanging partway open. “Nice choice,” he said. “I never would’ve thought you had a room like this in this house, no matter how big it is.”

Corvo shrugged. “Daelach designed this room. Both of us are rather serious martial artists. It is always best to do your exercises where you can see every move you make, simply to ensure you do them correctly.”

“Nice, I guess” Dalan said.

Corvo snorted. “Not that we actually need to see ourselves at this point. It is merely habit.” A grin twitched at his lips. “T’would be odd not to have mirrors, you know?” Corvo asked a bit playfully.

It was Dalan’s turn to shrug. “I wouldn’t know,” he said. “I’ve made all my efforts trying to stay out of view.”

Corvo stared at Dalan for several long moments as he tried to figure out what Dalan was trying to say. In the end, he decided not to ask, as he was fairly certain it would be like pulling teeth to get Dalan to elaborate. Instead, he pulled off his jacket and tossed it onto one of the couches. Then he began some preliminary stretches.

Dalan was looking around the room again. He noticed how vast the mirrors made the room look. The room was already quite large by itself, but the mirrors tripled and even quadrupled its visual size. Tearing his gaze away, Dalan finally shed his sweatshirt and began doing his own stretches.
When he felt ready, Corvo briefly cracked his neck by leaning it first to the left then the right. Then he shrugged his shoulders forward and assumed a ready stance.

“Whenever you’re ready,” he told Dalan.

It was Dalan’s turn to shrug. “I wouldn’t know,” he said. “I’ve made all my efforts trying to stay out of view.”

Corvo stared at Dalan for several long moments as he tried to figure out what Dalan was trying to say. In the end, he decided not to ask, as he was fairly certain it would be like pulling teeth to get Dalan to elaborate. Instead, he pulled off his jacket and tossed it onto one of the couches. Then he began some preliminary stretches.

Dalan was looking around the room again. He noticed how vast the mirrors made the room look. The room was already quite large by itself, but the mirrors tripled and even quadrupled its visual size. Tearing his gaze away, Da-lan finally shed his sweatshirt and began doing his own stretches.
When he felt ready, Corvo briefly cracked his neck by leaning it first to the left then the right. Then he shrugged his shoulders forward and assumed a ready stance.

“Whenever you’re ready,” he told Dalan. Dalan faced him and assumed his own ready stance. Corvo was about to make a move when his gaze dropped to Dalan's shoes, then his own. "Perhaps we should remove our shoes?"

Dalan followed Corvo's gaze down. He shrugged and bent to undo his laces. It wasn't an odd request for a dojo setting anyway.

Once their shoes were removed and placed neatly by the wall, they returned to the middle of the room and got into their ready stances. Corvo cocked his head slightly to the side, his eyes on Dalan as he gauged his first move.

Dalan was watching Corvo, waiting. "Didn't you say you had moves to show me?" Dalan asked at length.

"Yes," Corvo replied, "but I'd rather demonstrate them in a match. And given the nature of them, it's best if you attack me first."

"Very well then," Dalan said, beginning to circle slowly in one direction.

Corvo didn’t really respond, not even to circle with Dalan. He just stood there. Dalan didn’t really know how to read this guy, so he didn’t know if Corvo was sizing him up, sensing where he was in relation to the room or what.

With a resigned sigh, Dalan threw an experimental jab at Corvo’s face. It wasn’t really his style to attack first. It usually involved gaging his enemy and only engaging them if they needed to be engaged. Dalan had never picked a needless fight. Even those times at school with Raese, that guy was always charging in, fists swinging. All Dalan had to do was dodge and counter.

As soon as he sensed Dalan’s move, Corvo exploded into action. A snarl was torn from his throat as he ducked the swing and pivoted on one foot as he swept his other leg towards Dalan. The attack took Dalan a little off guard with how quickly and suddenly it came, but he managed to leap over it just barely in time. He could feel the wind from that kick, informing him that it would have potentially delivered some serious damage if it had landed.

Corvo’s eyes followed Dalan’s every move as he leaped over that initial leg sweep. Almost still in mid kick, Corvo launched his next attack—a strange combination of a punch and a swiping motion, like a cat.

Dalan had to duck backwards as soon as he had landed in order to avoid the new attack. Again, he just managed it, but not so gracefully. Corvo was proving to be more than he had bargained on. His feet slipped from beneath him, and he lost his balance, ending up flat on the polished floor. Since Corvo was still recovering from the attack, however, Dalan used that split second to vault himself back onto his feet.

Then, thinking he could throw Corvo off balance, Da-lan pulled a street move he’d learned from doing it on countless thugs. It involved launching himself headfirst at Corvo in that moment between attacks. With his speed, no one had ever been able to escape this assault before.

Corvo’s hand snaked forward as he stepped towards Dalan’s attack. The angle of the hand as it connected with Dalan’s head like lightning shoved Dalan face first towards the floor in the same movement. Only Dalan’s hands quickly put beneath him saved him from having his face slammed into the floor.

Managing to jerk free of Corvo’s grasp, Dalan sprang away, instantly on his feet. He went stumbling backwards a few paces before finally managing to regain his balance. He bent over clutching his knees with both hands.

*I guess I can’t rely on my abnormal abilities to get me through a fight,* Dalan realized. *Not with him. I’ve never met anyone like him or Daelach before.*
Corvo gazed at Dalan through narrowed eyes. “What the hell was that?” he demanded. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

Dalan shrugged and straightened up again. “This is all new to me,” he said with an obnoxious grin. “I tend to figure things out in a fight as I go.”

“Seriously,” Corvo continued his reprimand, “NEVER take your eyes off your opponent. Unless of course you’re fighting multiple opponents, but you still need to find a way to keep track of them and what they’re all doing.”

“Well, whatever, let’s go again,” Dalan said, his teeth still showing. He was in his ready stance again, already growing bored of talking. “You must know though, that it feels weird for me to just attack you when you’re standing there like that. I don’t usually attack until provoked.” He rolled his head around on his neck as he prepared for an-other round. “Let’s get serious now.”

Without warning, he went into his next attack. It was a martial arts combo this time that usually took down an opponent without giving him a way to escape since it seemed to come from the front and the back at once. Da-lan executed the moves perfectly and with blindingly fast speed.

A feral grin pulled at Corvo’s lips as his eyes danced in excitement as his body did a graceful dance to evade them all. He was just as fast as Dalan, faster even, so he seemed to be able to keep up just fine, blocking when necessary.

When Corvo stopped moving briefly, he stood nearly chest to chest with Dalan, with barely any room between them. Well, they would have been chest to chest had Cor-vo not been those few inches shorter. Corvo gazed into his friend’s amber eyes.

“Nice,” he said. Then he stepped back and performed a backflip to give them both more space. His sapphire eyes watched Dalan closely. “I can understand that you find it odd attacking first. I myself prefer to study my opponent before I ever launch an attack of my own.”

Dalan studied Corvo, noticing how both of the kid’s hands opened and clenched several times, almost like he wanted to curl them around the hilt of some sort of weap-on. He stepped forward, matching Corvo pace for pace.

The feral grin returned to Corvo’s face as he danced away from Dalan, intentionally drawing his opponent in. Then, without any warning at all, his stance switched from defensive to offensive. A strange cross between a snarl and a rumbling growl filled Corvo’s throat as he suddenly darted forward. There was a deadly serious look in his eyes as his hand snaked towards Dalan’s throat.
Dalan was little more than a streak himself as he stepped forward and slightly to the side, knocking the at-tack away with the sweep of one arm. He immediately fol-lowed this by a spinning crescent kick at knee level as Cor-vo’s momentum took him past Dalan’s position. It was an attack that should have had Corvo face first on the floor.

Sensing the move, however, Corvo made a dive to avoid the attack, hitting the floor in a roll. He rolled for-ward and, in one flowing movement, he used his hands against the floor to spring backwards, both feet aimed for Dalan’s chest.

With the position his kick had left him in, all Dalan could do was crouch down and bend over backwards again to avoid this attack. As it was, he watched as Corvo’s feet flew by just an inch or two from his face.

Then just before Corvo landed again, Dalan sprang back up to take advantage of the moment of vulnerability. His lightning fast hook kick brought the heel of his right foot down into Corvo’s right shoulder hard. The momentum of Dalan’s kick caught Corvo’s shoulder and dragged him towards the floor.

Corvo didn’t even flinch when Dalan’s kick landed, nor did he struggle against being forced down. Instead, a wicked gleam entered his eyes as his hands clamped down on Dalan’s leg, just above the ankle. “Got you,” he whis-pered as his hands tightened when he hit the floor. Then he performed a strange sort of forward rolling maneuver that yanked Dalan off his feet.

Dalan’s eyes widened at Corvo’s vice grip on his leg. In the next instant, he knew what would happen just by look-ing into his opponent’s eyes. However, there was nothing he could do about it, nor was there time to do it. Dalan suddenly found himself on his back with Corvo on top of him.
He blinked. *What just happened?*

Corvo’s hands now pinned Dalan’s wrists down, and Dalan could feel the balls of the kid’s feet hard against his shins.

“That was awesome!” Dalan exclaimed when he had caught his breath, breaking into a wide grin beneath his opponent. “You gotta show me how you did that.”

A rumbling growl filled Corvo’s chest as he gazed down into Dalan’s eyes.  His smile had a decidedly preda-tory feel to it, and Dalan was sure he had caught a glimpse of fangs as Corvo’s lips parted slightly. But those eyes he was staring up into, those eyes were catlike with their slit pupils.

A moment later, everything was back to normal. Cor-vo looked like a normal kid again. Well, except for the hair. And the clothes. “I would be glad to,” Corvo replied after a long pause.
*I must be imagining things,* Dalan thought briefly.

Corvo carefully extracted himself from on top of Dalan. His gaze dropped as he turned away. “Sorry,” he whispered.

Dalan sat up, rubbing his wrists and shaking his head. “It’s all good,” came the reply. “I’m still in one piece, I think.” He had said this last part with a teasing grin, which he soon dropped. Instead, he studied Corvo.

“That wasn’t what I was apologizing about,” Corvo continued, his voice still a whisper. “I know you are in one piece. I pulled my attack enough to ensure that. Had I not, I might have fractured your leg.” Dalan’s amber gaze was hard on him now. Corvo shook his head. “No, I shall not apologize for leaving you a little sore. Such is to be ex-pected in a good sparring match.”

“Okay…” Dalan trailed off. Ignoring the odd and un-settling vibe he was getting from Corvo, Dalan shrugged and climbed to his feet. “Sure.”

*There is definitely something odd going on with him,* Dalan decided. *I just can’t quite pin it down.*

He smiled disarmingly. “Weren’t you going to show me a move?”

Corvo turned to look at Dalan. “That’s it?” he asked in confusion. “Just a ‘sure’ and nothing more?” He snorted, and his gaze moved around the room until it rested on the box that stood on the end table in a corner. “So alike yet so different,” he muttered to himself.
Dalan gave Corvo a harder look, using his own senses to study him, but the kid wasn’t paying him any attention just now.

“I guess we are,” Dalan said quietly. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Corvo merely sighed. “Perhaps this was a bad idea,” he said quietly. His sapphire gaze flicked to meet Dalan’s. “It is harder than I expected.” Then his gaze darted away again. “Just give me a minute; I’ll try to pull myself together.”

Dalan nodded and folded his arms over his chest, though one eyebrow was raised questioningly.
Corvo met Dalan’s gaze briefly before it darted away yet again. “Stop looking at me,” he complained.

Dalan’s lips lifted a little to reveal his teeth partway. This expression was actually one of quiet laughter, not predatory. “What’s with you all of a sudden?” he asked, his eyes twinkling. Even as he said this, he noticed the changes in his companion. The shade of blue in Corvo’s eyes shifted. It was more silvery now, and perhaps even the slightest touch of sea green. That was not even the biggest change.

Corvo’s whole demeanor was suddenly gentle, quiet...bashful. That was a better word. Dalan could have sworn right then that this was Corvo’s twin brother standing there. He blinked, then turned around with a sigh.

“Close your eyes please,” Corvo asked quietly.

“What?” Dalan asked without thinking. “Why?”

“Mirrors,” Corvo replied.

“Right,” Dalan said, feeling stupid. He complied, closing his eyes.

*Why is he suddenly acting so shy?* Dalan wondered with more than just a little bewilderment. *Is this seriously the same kid I’ve been sparring with? What’s he really up to?* He heard Corvo give a deep sigh, then heard a sound that suggested he was settling on the floor.

Dalan shifted slightly. Whatever Corvo was doing sure was taking a long time. Dalan’s keen hearing picked up the kid’s breathing. Other than that, Corvo was very still. That odd vibe Dalan had sensed grew stronger. Out of respect for his friend, Dalan tried to ignore it. He really did.

Then the temptation became too great. Dalan peaked through one carefully squinted eye at Corvo’s reflection. The kid was sitting perfectly still in the middle of the floor in a meditative cross-legged position, eyes closed.

“You are peeking,” Corvo said quietly without bothering to open his own eyes.

This sufficed to startle Dalan nearly out of his wits. “How would you know that?” he asked. “Your eyes are closed.”

“I can feel you watching me. My senses are extremely sharp, Dalan, and I do believe I pay more attention to mine than you do to yours,” Corvo replied without mov-ing. “Though you do seem to be learning to listen to what they are trying to tell you some of the time. How else would you have been able to disable those bombs? You have no experience in the field of bomb disposal.”

Dalan shrugged. Then a red flag went up in his mind. “Wait, how would you know about that?”

Corvo sighed. “I believe you already know the answer to that,” he replied. “I already told you that my brother was very thorough in his description of the incident. Besides, the pieces were not that hard for me to put together myself.”

Dalan shifted his position yet again but did not say any more on the matter.

“You are impatient,” Corvo said a moment later. It was more of an observation than an accusation. “I apologize.” He sighed again. “I cannot do this when I can feel you standing there trying not to fidget.”

Dalan turned around again to face him. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly, though he had no idea why he was really apologizing.

Corvo’s eyes opened when he sensed Dalan turning around. He looked up into the amber gaze. “You wished to ask me something,” he said after a moment or two. “What was it?”

That amber gaze dropped to the floor. “No,” he said, “it’s nothing.”

“Dalan, what is it? You’ve peaked my curiosity.”

Dalan hesitated, staring at his friend. Corvo suddenly seemed much older. “It’s getting late,” he said suddenly. “I should get back home. My father should be there soon, if he isn’t already. If you’re going to show me that move, you should probably do it now.”

“Yes, of course,” Corvo replied as he rose to his feet. He gazed into Dalan’s eyes for several long moments. “I do believe I can do this now.” He paused for a minute and continued in a very quiet voice. “I just wonder if it would be better or worse for you to look human,” he whispered more to himself than Dalan.

Dalan had absolutely no clue what to make of that statement. *Corvo’s acting even weirder than usual today,*he thought. *If only I could get a glimpse into his head right now, maybe some of this would make sense.* He shook his head, trying to focus again on what his companion was doing.

“But we do not have time for such puzzles if you are wanting to get home,” Corvo was saying, as if he had read Dalan’s mind. “Now, put your leg back up on my shoulder like it was when you kicked me. I shall try to take this slow.”

All the way home, Dalan dragged his feet, not eager to get back despite his former urgency. He did have a lot to think about. At the very least, he tried to steer his thoughts away from Nolin. That incident was one taboo for him, a festering wound that Dalan could not touch on without losing himself again. The last time he had lost himself, recently in fact, he had hardly come out of his room for two days. He couldn’t do that to his mother, not again.

Dalan forcibly gulped back his tears. *I need to snap out of it.* Heaving a sigh, he turned his thoughts. They were whirling around in his brain, never giving him any rest. Those last few hours with Corvo had been great. For the first time in a while, he’d been able to forget everything.

Despite his efforts now, however, everything came rushing back. Daelach’s rebuke echoed clearly in his mind. “And you are only human! Do not blame yourself for the natural inclination of your species for self-preservation!” The words sounded harsh and cold now, a sharp contrast to the Daelach Dalan had known before.

Hot tears sat on Dalan’s cheeks.

“Self-preservation,” he growled through gritted teeth. “That’s why Nolin died. I couldn’t protect him...I was protecting myself.”

He slammed one fist into the palm of his other hand. Again he heard the gun go off, all the other sounds whiting out, giving way to the harsh retort of the weapon.

Dalan also still vividly remembered that disastrous fight where he’d ended up bleeding in the street, but he’d been saved. That was how he’d first met Daelach.

He wasn’t going to let anything that happened in the past scare him away. He was going to see this through. Besides, there was no way Dalan was going to miss how everything played out.

He could tell that there was more to the Ravenstrike brothers than what was on the surface. Just how deeply were they involved?

“The ZRR will pay. I swear it, Nolin!” he screamed at the sky. “I will take every last one of them on myself if I have to!”
Chapter 22/30 - A Sparring Match With Fate
DA Shadow Phantom - the end of Volume 4

It seems Dalan has gotten the hang of hero work. The question is, can he deal with loss? Can he manage to pull himself up out of the deep, dark pit he has been plunged into now after the unexpected death of a friend, someone he was supposed to have been protecting?

***Hey everyone. The story has a new format now, hence the odd chapter numbers.  What was chapter 22 is now chapter 30. But don't worry, besides some editing, you haven't missed anything. I know it's been a while  since I'e posted. I've been working like crazy on the graphic novel for this story. I may be testing that out at some point.

:icondragongrin: Also, the first four volumes (aka 30 chapters) of this story are up on Amazon.com. These are the fully edited and formatted version, including some chapter art. Please check them out! Here: www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_… :icondragoncryingplz:


Note: :iconaundriel:  is collaborating with me on this story from Chapter 5 on, helping me out with some of the scenes and characters.

Story Folder: nykol-haebrd.deviantart.com/ga…

Previous Chapter: nykol-haebrd.deviantart.com/ar…
Next Chapter: nykol-haebrd.deviantart.com/ar…
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Hey everyone,

Check out my new fantasy series DA Shadow Phantom on Amazon Kindle. There are 3 volumes up right now, more to follow. I wrote this action/adventure fantasy series with my room mate and best friend from college.

A Short Synopsis:
Dalan Raymer is a normal kid... 
At least as far as he's concerned. He's trying to survive high school just like any boy his age. But normal kids don't sprout blue fur or claws whenever they get upset or become excited. Not only does Dalan have out-of-the-ordinary powers he is sure are a curse, he has to learn how to control them in time to protect those he cares for instead of hurting them.


We've been working hard on getting this story edited and ready to go, so check it out! Look me up on Amazon.
www.amazon.com/Nicole-Hubbard/…

www.shadowphantom.net
  • Listening to: Les Friction
  • Reading: The Heroes of Olympus series
  • Watching: Naruto
  • Playing: Kingdom Hearts
  • Eating: Fluffy French toast with fruit jam and syrup
  • Drinking: peach tea

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nykol-haebrd
Nicole Hubbard
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
United States
I think of myself as a perpetual student, as I always enjoy learning more about art, storytelling, and the world. I find that, the more I learn and the more skills I master, the more I learn about myself. My style began as mostly traditional. Now, I have expanded my skills to realistic fantasy art, as well as some design and cartoon work. I received a bachelors in Creative Writing with a minor in the fine arts and I have had some classes in animation, typography, and character design. I am also a good writer and storyteller.

Check out my blog! I will be posting my progress on my projects here, both DA Shadow Phantom as well as North Country Series, including artwork progress, chapter progress, and other things relating to the stories. I will also be talking about my likes and inspirations. Click here: nykoshad.blogspot.com/

Book Sales

North Country, Book One: The Riders of Redrog is now available for purchase in multiple ebook formats here: www.smashwords.com/books/view/…

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- please stop by and LIKE these two, the page for my fantasy novel series, North Country!
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:iconcemac:
cemac Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2016
Another year and once again wishing you a very :iconbdayplz: from cemac and :icondigitaldelights: and may this year be your most successful and most creative one yet.
:icontiphankeplz::iconsomeconfettiplz::boogie::party::iconcheerplz::iconhappybirthdaycakeplz::iconcheerplz::party::boogie::iconsomeconfettiplz::icontiphankeplz:
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:iconnykol-haebrd:
nykol-haebrd Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks ^_^
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:iconcemac:
cemac Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2015
Wishing you a very :iconbdayplz: from :icondigitaldelights: and may this year be your most creative one yet.
:icontiphankeplz::iconsomeconfettiplz::boogie::party::iconcheerplz::iconhappybirthdaycakeplz::iconcheerplz::party::boogie::iconsomeconfettiplz::icontiphankeplz:
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:iconnykol-haebrd:
nykol-haebrd Featured By Owner May 12, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I haven't been on for a while, but thanks so much for the birthday wish! :D
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:iconcemac:
cemac Featured By Owner May 13, 2015
My pleasure :) I hope it was a great day for you :heart:
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:iconnaomi-casual:
Naomi-Casual Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I like your characters!! I saw 3 of them on that Transformation, Chapter One picture. The black-haired kid reminds me of my OC, but less smiley xD Mostly the ears and black Hair xD But awesome style!! ^_^ o3o
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:iconnykol-haebrd:
nykol-haebrd Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks a lot! I love this story and hope to get it published. XD
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:iconnaomi-casual:
Naomi-Casual Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Same with me! I wanna publish a manga o3o
I wish you luck on yours~ :3
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:iconnykol-haebrd:
nykol-haebrd Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks! Good luck to you too :)
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:iconzironyxcyx:
Zironyxcyx Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the watch, and i am glad that you enjoyed the charts. Still a masterpiece in the works!
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