The site before her brought a scream to her mouth. She wanted to move away from it but she could only scream, her body rejecting her want of movement. The face drew closer to her. The scream died as she stared into the entrancing red eyes. She knew she needed to get away, she knew what they would do to her but she couldn't. He blinked and broke the spell. In one quick movement she was on her feet and running through the darkness.

She didn't know where she was or where she was going but she had to get away. All she could see in front of her was a black void. She turned her head to see her pursuers. And she stopped.

The faces hadn't moved, but neither had she. It was hopeless. She was entangled in the illusion and was going to die like the others. The flesh masks didn't smile, they were the faces of their worthy victims, and only the eyes were their own. The red eyes of her reapers gleamed with bloodlust, except one.

She felt her eyes drawn to that one. Younger than the others, it's mask made of leather and not flesh. A pure one among the tainted. He returned her gaze, his eyes held an apology that would never be spoken. She nodded to him, she didn't know why but she forgave him for her death.

She closed her eyes and aloud the piece to wash over her. She heard the shriek as they transformed. The thought of knowing the child would be like them brought tears to her eyes, but there was no way to save him.

She gasped as the teeth sank into her arms. The claws dug into her skin, peeling it away. She felt the blood trail down her body. The pain would be over soon and she would be in piece, away from the world of misery. The thought of the child returned. A glimmer of hope flashed in her mind, not hope for herself but for him. Someone had to save him from this and she knew it. She couldn't let death overcome her. She opened her eyes to confront the masks.

She stared into the darkness, she could see nothing. The attackers were gone. Standing up she walked a familiar path. She opened a door and continued on. She knew her way. She took a left turn and stopped. Her hand stretched out and felt along the smooth wall.

With a flash a light illuminated the room. Her eyes were blurred for a moment until they focused to the flash. She starred at the C bathroom. Five stalls lined the wall to the right. On her left were a row of porcelain sinks with mirrors set above them.

The cold water was a shock to her face. Bending over the sink she continued to splash her face. She had to wash away the faces. After minutes she gave up and dried her face with a paper towel, and looked up at the mirror.

Her eyes were yellow specks in black circles. Her dark hair was faded from worry and exhaustion. Her complexion was pale. The nightmares had caused her much suffering from lack asleep to sudden outbursts of fear during the day. She washed her face again. The eyes of the child were still there. She could never get rid of his eyes, always looking so sad and pleading.

"Sapphire, was it them again?" came a voice from behind her. Sapphire didn't bother to turn around. She knew the voice and knew its ways. Every night for the last 5 nights she had awoken from the same nightmare, and every night the owner of the voice comforted her.

She looked up from the water and into the mirror. She saw her best-friend, Aurora. The golden haired nymph was the only person who knew of the frequent nightmares, she dare not tell anyone else.

Aurora moved in her graceful nymph way towards her. She brought the essence of beauty where ever she went. No one could deny her flawless appearance. She knew it too. And though most thought of her as stuck up, she saw the kindness in her best friend's sky blue eyes, along with the hardship that so many had.

"It was a different mask but the same eyes. The child seemed even sadder and the pain was worse," she stared at her arms, other than the bruise on her right shoulder from practice she was unmarked. The pain was real though, she knew it was.

"You didn't wet yourself this time," Aurora spoke. Sapphire laughed but stopped at the look in her eyes. Concern was there, Aurora didn't joke about the dreams. It was true that majority of the time she woke up wet from the fear of the nightmares. Aurora knew that it was painful, and she knew that it was frightening beyond her comprehension," Did he speak this time?"

Sapphire shook her head," Not this time," the child's mask had a hole where the mouth was, unlike the others. She had watched as he tried to speak many times in her dream, but he never made a sound.

She felt Auroras warm arms around her, her face buried in her shoulder. She held her tight and cried," What if you can't return? What if the boy isn't there?" The words plagued Sapphire to no end. She never let Aurora know her true thoughts, that she knew the boy wouldn't be there much longer and that there was no other way out.

Sapphire removed her arms and stared her in the face, with a smile," They're just dreams, they can't really harm me," Aurora laughed at the false courage.

They went together back to their room. Two other girls shared the room with them, but they had been gone for two weeks on their last job. Sapphire lay in her bed and closed her eyes. The nightmares only came once a night so fatigue took hold of her and she was peacefully asleep.

She awoke at 6:00 a.m. She had trained herself to wake up at that time, no matter how little of sleep she had. She stared at the ceiling and thought of the nightmares again. She turned her head to her right to see Aurora watching her silently, she probably hadn't gone back to sleep. The nightmares were a taboo subject during the day so the room stayed silent as the two changed from their night clothes into their day wear.

Sapphire chose a pair of faded jeans and a simple black-tee, her usually clothes on days she practiced outside. She picked up her training staff.

The pair walked out together. The secret of the nightmares shared between them kept their friendship stronger, but Sapphire felt alone still. Aurora knew the dreams, but didn't feel them. She wished Alex would return so she could feel his gentle touch and find comfort in his arms.

They parted down different halls of the castle called Lia's Soldier Academy. Sapphire and Aurora were two of the few of the Academy's younger soldiers. Most of the inhabitants were over 25. The woman Sapphire was going to practice with was Emma Airaldi.

Emma was the soldier assigned the task of training all those below the age of 18. There were few and so she usually gave 1 on 1 practice. Emma was a human but her skills in battle were unparalleled. That's why Sapphire enjoyed the practices so much. Emma was someone that if Sapphire beat her she would gain some respect.

"Prompt as usually Sapphire. Are you ready?" Sapphire had walked through the double-doors to the courtyard to hear the words spoken by a feminine voice. Sitting on a bench next to the opposite wall, was Emma.

"Yes," The instant the words left her mouth Emma charged, her own staff held ready to strike. Sapphire quickly raised her staff and stopped the first strike.

On Sapphires first day of training with Emma the first strike was enough to win. Her arms had been weak and even with the staff the blow was too much of a strain to prevent. Sapphire learned that Emma wasn't to be taken lightly.

Emma was a robust woman of 21 and every movement held speed and power. Reaching a height of 5'11, she towered over Sapphire's 5' specialized in hand-to-hand and stave combat. Her red hair was cut short to prevent problems. Sapphire had thoughts over doing the same after one practice when Emma had grabbed her hair and pulled her to the ground. She never goes easy on her trainees and uses the same moves an enemy in battle would use, though she had apologized for the hair pulling. It must have been against her code to use such a cheap trick but she was to train them for wars. Such a trick wasn't above desperate or dastardly men.

The staff collided with Sapphires calf and her legs buckled and her arms stretched out in front of her. She pushed herself up and out of the way of another blow, cursing herself for falling for the same trick.

Sapphire had been through many matches with the woman and had learned her usually tactics. She had formed a style of fast dodges and quick jabs to counteract Emma's powerful swings and speedy footwork.

She raises her staff to stop the strike, but the staff was maneuvered around it and hit to the side of her chest. She falls. Her arms form a cushion for her face as she hits the ground. For minutes she coughs, each breath brought her sharp pains.

"You were distracted today; you don't usually allow me to get near your chest," Emma sat down on the bench and left Sapphire to recover from the attack.

She continued to cough for minutes more until the pain had lessened. Rolling onto her back, she stared up at the sunny sky. The practice was over and she hadn't learned anything," I'm sorry, I've had a lot on my mind,"

"It's shone in the last few matches, but more this time than the others. What's bothering you so much?" Emma was a robust woman, who could fight just as good as a man, but her heart was soft when it came to young people. She had once failed in a job because her enemy had been a 14 year old boy. She couldn't bring herself to finish him. He had cried and begged for mercy. She dropped her guard. He escaped and she was punished. That was how she ended up training the 18 and below soldiers.

"It's nothing. I've just not had enough sleep, I've been reading those books you recommended," Sapphire lied but she couldn't tell her. Emma was one of the A rank. She is one of Lia's trusted soldiers, and Sapphire didn't trust Lia.

"What did Dr. Chirurgo's Theory of Thaumaturgy say about Imps?" Emma stared add Sapphire questionably. With a shake of her heard Emma picked up her staff and headed to the door,

" Sapphire, you can trust me. I'm not a tattler, like most believe," with that she was gone.

"I think you should tell her," Aurora said without giving it a thought. Aurora and Sapphire were sitting near the front gate. Both girls had guard duty until evening. Neither enjoyed guard duty but it wasn't as bad when they were together.

"I didn't trade time with Sean to hear this. She can't be trusted. Look at her rank. No normal human can become an A without some kind of relationship with Lia," What Sapphire said was true. Humans were one of the weaker races. Even the best human warriors would lose when confronted with a vampire, Slayer, elf, or many more of average fighting ability.

The two sat in silence for the remaining time. She wanted tell someone else, but she didn't even trust Alex with the secret. He was of B rank but was one of Lia's favorites in the academy. He was a young prodigy. He knew every seal, which wasn't too great of a feat, but he also had created a few of his own. He was handsome and smart. He was kind and boyish. Every girl wanted him, and Lia.

Sapphire wondered why he would want to be with a girl like herself. She was an orphan, so she had no family with power and was poor. She knew not what race she was. She only knew that she had another form but pain and fear kept her from finding out what it was. Many races had a different form or so changed state so she couldn't narrow it down. She was in the C rank, and this was thanks to Alex and Aurora even though they deny their involvement. She was fairly good-looking, but she paled in comparison to Aurora. She wasn't a prodigy, which usually involved knowing your own race, and had to struggle to finish most low-level jobs.

"The sun is setting we will be switching shifts soon," Aurora spoke softly, barely able to be heard by Sapphire. When the silence seemed to be too much, the other guards showed up for their shift. Sapphire hurried away from there. She didn't wait for Aurora to catch up, she didn't want her to. Being alone was what she wanted for the moment. She needed to clear her head about her nightmares and Alex.