I can still remember the moment I became a murderer. The taste of blood as well as the sound of silence that told me the deed was done are still clear in my mind.
It was night, as it always seemed to be in my early memories. I was prowling through the alleys, searching for food, anything to fill my aching stomach. The damp ground was cold beneath my bare feet as I darted from shadow to shadow, being sure to stay out of the moon's light.
My knuckles were white from their tight grip on the Dagger as I struggled to keep my breathing silent. Any sound could give me away and mean my death. The city streets were no place to be at night, not for anyone looking to keep their life or their limbs. For years there had been rumors of a murderer in the city, a ruthless slayer who had never been seen. Only the gruesome corpses told the story of what had happened.
A tantalizing smell struck my nostrils, making my mouth water. My stomach growled, reminding me of how many hours if not days had passed since I had eaten. There was food nearby, food that would soon be mine.
I rushed around a corner, but my small feet were not as agile as they are now, and I slipped. I hit the cobbled ground with enough force to knock the Dagger from my hand, sending it sliding across the ground. My stomach seemed to wrench as I saw it slide into a slender ray of moonlight, its silver blade reflecting brightly.
I clambered to my feet, no longer worrying about making noise. I needed my Dagger back. My eyes widened in horror as a hand shot out from the darkness, easily snatching the Dagger before my fingers could close around its leather bound hilt. I lurched toward it, outstretching my fingers, but all they clutched was air.
"Well, you made that much easier than I had expected," came a woman's voice. "I hadn't been expecting you to just hand it over like that."
I took a hasty step back as the woman stepped into the moonlight, my Dagger gleaming brightly in her hand. She had long, dark hair that hung well past her shoulders, and I could see the hint of a smile on her full lips.
"Give it back," I hissed, my voice thin and reedy.
The woman laughed, a harsh sound that made goose bumps rise on my arms. "Not a chance. But I'll gladly take your life."
She lunged toward me and my eyes went wide. I knew I should close them, or try to move out of the way of her strike, but I stood, frozen.
A blur barreled into the woman, knocking her off her feet. "Run," came a rough voice, and the sound of two people struggling could be clearly heard.
I listened to the second voice and whirled, my feet a blur as I dashed through the alleyways. My breath came in rapid pants as I fled from that terrifying woman who had stolen my Dagger.
"Where're you going, miss?" came a voice, and a strong hand closed around my wrist. I tried to pull free and keep running, but only succeeded in falling to the ground.
"Let me go," I protested, struggling to pull away from the man who had grabbed me. His stench hit my nose and nearly made me wretch. I had left the one who stole my Dagger behind, but there were still many other dangers in the city at night.
"First give me all the money you have," he growled, whirling me to face him. He leered into my face, his eyes glazed and obviously drunk.
"I have nothing," I squealed in terror, still trying to pull away from his tight grip. My heart pounded against my rib cage, trying to break free and run to safety.
"Give me your money," he growled again, lifting me by my throat. He slammed me against the wall, his fingers tightening on my throat like a vice.
My feet kicked helplessly as he started to choke me, his incoherent, glazed eyes barely registering what he was doing.
A sound squeezed from my lips, unbidden. At that small sound, the man's grip loosened and he looked at me. "What did you say? How much do you have?" he growled, waiting for my reply.
His fingers began to tighten again, but before he could cut off my breathing again, more sounds were pouring from my lips.
My voice, normally breathy and airy, was deep and growling. Words that I didn't recognize or comprehend flowed from my mouth, forming a strange chantlike Song. I didn't know what I was doing, but I couldn't stop myself. All I wanted was to run away, to hide in the darkness where I would be safe.
As if responding to my thoughts, my voice changed again, breaking into the middle of my range, calling out a confident melody despite my terror. It was as eerie as it was beautiful. I moved my head as I Sang, my neck stretching like a heron's. The man was still, his eyes frozen on mine in confusion. The expression in them told me he was unable to move.
I went back to the first chantlike melody and Sang it once again, feeling my veins sing along with me. With each note that I Sang, I became stronger, less afraid.
My voice changed again, going back to the second melody. But this time, the words were different. The tone of the words and my voice were filled with terror, anger, despair, vengeance.
My Song went silent, and blood flowed from the man's throat as a cut opened wide on his skin. It spattered my face, shocking me with its warm, metallic taste.
The man slumped to the ground, his eyes glazed with something much different than drunkenness. His grip on me loosened and released. For a moment, everything was silent. He was dead. And I somehow, with a strange Song, had killed him.
Panic sent my heart racing as I spun away from the bloody man, running away through the silent alley, trying to put his body as well as that strange Song behind me.
I was alone, with no memories of my past. I had just killed someone. I was afraid of what my voice had just done. I was ten years old, and I was a murderer.
CHAPTER 1: A Meeting in the Night
Eight years later
The dark, growling melody that rolls off my lips is more familiar than anything else in my life. As I move through these same dark alleys, the Song gives me strength, makes me aware. Its rhythm is perfectly in time with my heart, never faltering, never swaying. Lightning crackles in my veins, makes my feet seem to dance. I am alive when I Sing, I am part of the night.
Perhaps tonight will be the night I find her, the one who stole my Dagger. Something in me has been screaming since that day, something tells me that I need it back. So I've searched each night, scouring the city streets for her. I know she's here. I just have to find her.
I quicken my pace, my bare feet dancing across the grimy stone ground. Even my movements are in time with my Song. I raise my voice, calling out a quiet Song of defense, protection. I am safe as long as I Sing. The daggers I carry are only for show, my Song is my true weapon. Tonight I will find her. I will reclaim what is mine.
Sudden movement catches my eye and I freeze, the Song on my lips coming to an abrupt halt. A figure continues stepping around the corner in front of me, illuminated in the moonlight that manages to snake down through the roofs of buildings.
The man is young, perhaps my age. His dark hair is glistening with a few drops of the drizzle that dampened the ground. As I watch him in silence, he turns his eyes toward me, as if he knows exactly where he'll find my face. When he locks onto my face, it's his eyes that smile, not his lips. But there's something unnerving about that smile, something that makes me curious, makes me take a tiny step forward.
No sooner has my foot touched the ground that strong hands grab me from behind, forcing a cloth gag into my mouth. I thrash to the side, trying to free my lips so I can Sing myself to safety, but the hand that holds the gag in place is strong and unyielding. Another hand snares my waist, pinning my arms to my side as my captor pulls me against himself.
"That was easy," says the dark-haired man, stepping toward me. Now the smile is on his lips as well. Everything about him screams arrogance, confidence, cunning. I curse at him with my eyes.
"I told you it'd work," comes a different voice. I turn my head toward the newcomer, but the hand holding the gag yanks my head so I'm forced to look forward again.
"Well, when you have bait as attractive as I am," says the smiling man, gesturing to himself with a laugh.
"Yeah," agrees the second voice, still remaining out of sight. "What teenage girl wouldn't go for a handsome young man?" His voice is sarcastic and teasing, telling me that he and the dark-haired stranger must know each other well.
I tense my muscles, trying to use the residual strength from my Song to break free. But my captor has arms thick with muscle, and he only tightens his grip as I struggle.
"Quit your bantering and take the Dagger, Vice," growls a male voice from behind me. His voice is close to my ear, and his breath blows a few strands of my dark hair over my face. Shivers run down my spine at the chill in his voice and at his words. The Dagger. Not 'her weapons.' He is looking for something specific.
"Right, I almost forgot what we were even doing this for," says the dark-haired man, apparently known as Vice. He steps forward and chuckles for a moment before patting down my clothing, touching places that normally would've made me blush with embarrassment. Now my cheeks were alight with fury.
With deft fingers, he extracts a dagger from my belt, my boot, and a sheath on my thigh. He examines each of the gleaming blades but then casts them to the ground, disappointed.
"None of these are what we're looking for," he says, shaking his head. Drops of water from his hair spatter my face as he takes a step back, looking me over as if trying to find where I might conceal more weapons. Apparently satisfied that he had explored every option, he shrugs his shoulders at the man holding me.
"She's not nearly as frightening as I thought she'd be. Are you sure this is the right girl?" he asks after a moment, looking over my furious face as I struggle again, trying to pull away from the arms holding me. "She doesn't have the Dagger, at least not with her. And I don't know why she wouldn't be carrying it everywhere she went."
"Of course I'm sure, Vice," snarls the voice from behind me. "Look, she's not even afraid right now. Any normal person would be terrified. And didn't you hear her Singing before?"
My blood runs cold. The way he said 'singing' makes me know that he understands the nature of my Song, that he knows what it meant, what I am.
"Yeah, but it could've just been an ordinary song," says Vice, his blue eyes betraying his uncertainty.
"Haze, what do you think? You're the one who first heard her Singing," says my captor, his voice directed toward the other person present.
"It is no ordinary song," confirms the voice, sounding certain. "But perhaps she no longer has possession of the Dagger."
"It's possible," agrees Vice, looking into my eyes again. The smile is gone from his face. "What should we do?"
His question had been addressed to no one in particular, but the man holding me answered him, quickly taking the role of leader.
"We can't risk killing her," he says. "We have no way of knowing what would happen with her power. We can knock her out and leave while she's unconscious. A strong strike to the head should do it."
Even though I haven't seen my captor's face, one word springs to mind. Ruthless. That's what he is.
"Alright," says the dark-haired one. He lifts one of my knives from the ground and flips it in his hand so that the hilt will strike me.
"Wait, Vice," says the other voice, and a figure steps between me and the dark-haired man, ready to block the incoming blow.
"What is it, Haze?" asks Vice, his eyes darting to the man who stands between us. He is slightly taller than Vice, but is slight in build.
"If she really has the Song, perhaps she's looking for the Dagger too. She could be useful to us." As he speaks, I try to make out his face, but all I can see clearly is his dark red hair.
Vice frowns, putting his hands up in the air. My dagger gleams brightly in his hand. "I don't care what we do. This isn't my decision." He glances at the man holding me, waiting for a response.
"I don't want to risk it. If she has the Song, there's no knowing what she could do the moment I take this gag away."
"Please," says the red-haired man, and he looks at my captor. When I see his eyes, I'm startled, but I don't flinch. His eyes are pure white, with no pupils or coloration at all. Yet the rest of his face is the face of a man close to my own age.
"Fine," agrees the man holding me, although he sounds reluctant. "Haze, get your dagger ready, just in case. The second you hear a single sound escape her lips, throw your knife. Hear that, girl? Don't try anything."
As he begins to loosen the gag, I know that he's underestimated me. He doesn't know that the power I had built up earlier is still flowing in my veins. The gag slips away, although the man still pins my arms to my side. When I part my lips and Sing, the first note accomplishes my goal before Haze can even think of throwing his dagger.
The three men go completely still, their eyes open and still watching me intently. But when I move and wriggle out of my captor's frozen grasp, their eyes don't follow me.
I quickly snatch my knives from the ground and from Vice's hand, the Song never leaving my lips. The men stand, unmoving, as I disarm first Vice, then Haze. Next, I turn to my former captor, looking at him for the first time.
His face holds an attractiveness that I hadn't been expecting. I had been sure I would find hatred and malice etched into harsh, rigid features. But instead, his green eyes are calm and calculating, and I can see protectiveness in them. Yet his lips are frozen in a grim scowl, and it is there that the ruthlessness I had heard in his voice is apparent.
I glance to his hair and am surprised to see it is pure white, the color of untouched snow. It gleams with the health and luster of youth, not like the limp strands of an elderly person.
I sheath my weapons and put theirs in a pouch at my waist, then turn away. It will be easy to escape, easy to flee and never see these men again, easy to kill them now and be done. But as I take a step away, I glance back at the dark-haired man. I look from his pure blue eyes to Haze's white eyes, then to my captor's green orbs. These men know things about me, about the dagger. Things that I might not even know. Things I want to learn.
My voice begins to change and the tempo of my Song increases. Without even noticing, I switch to a different verse, one that will kill the three men standing there, frozen. I try to stop my lips, try to stop the Song, but it's out of my control. My feet are moving on their own, moving me in a strange dance.
Before I can complete the verse, I sink my teeth into my tongue. My voice halts, and the men begin to move again. Haze waves his arm, throwing a knife that's no longer in his hand, and the white-haired man tightens his grip on a girl who's not there anymore.
The three men glance around until they see me. I don't move, don't try to run. Blood is trickling from my tongue, and when I open my mouth to speak it trickles down my chin. I wipe it away as the dark-haired man, Vice, begins to speak.
"You're faster than we thought," he says with a laugh, his blue eyes dancing. "So why are you still here? You could've killed us with that creepy Song, am I right?"
"But I didn't," I state simply, speaking to them for the first time. My voice sounds cold and confident to my own ears, but on the inside, I'm afraid. I don't know what to do, how to get the information I want.
"What do you need?" asks the white-haired man. He steps in between me and the other two men as if protecting them from me. "Why did you leave us alive?"
"Tell me what you know about me, my Songs, and about the Dagger. And then I'll let you live," I say, my voice monotone.
"You think a death threat will frighten me?" growls the man, narrowing his eyes dangerously. His tone of voice implies that this isn't the first time he's been in a situation like this.
"It won't," adds Vice from behind his shoulder, peering out with something suspiciously like excitement on his face.
"Maybe not your death, but what about his?" I ask, training my eyes on Vice. "Or his." I glance to Haze, letting my eyes linger on his white orbs for a moment too long. I part my lips, and begin to Sing the verse I had nearly completed before.
"Enough," growls the white-haired man, his voice rough with sudden intensity. I press my lips together, ending my Song. I look to the man again and this time I see a hint of fear in his eyes. His muscles tense as he meets my gaze. "What do you want?"
"Tell me everything you know," I say again.
The man sighs, and Vice steps forward from behind his shoulder. His voice is smooth and calm, as if he doesn't believe that I would kill him. "We know little about you, only that you have the Song. We're trying to find the Dagger, because there's something we need it for. We know quite a bit about your Songs, probably more than you can imagine. Does that satisfy you?"
"No," I growl, getting ready to part my lips and Sing again.
Haze steps in front, his eyes trained in my general direction, but not looking quite at mine. At that moment, I realize that he is blind. But my thoughts on his blindness disappear as he begins to speak.
"We know, for instance, that you as a Singer are missing something very important. Something that we can provide. We need to find the Dagger, so do you. Work with us, and we can tell you about your Songs. It'll be easier for all of us if we work together for the same goal."
I freeze, surprised at the confidence in his words. The whole mood of this conversation has changed in an instant. From the look on Vice and the other man's faces, they are surprised too. "And if I say no?" I ask, wiping the blood that stains my lips on the back of my hand.
"If you're really thinking clearly, you'll say yes. But if you do say no, then you leave, never knowing what information we have. I know you won't kill us. It's clear in your voice."
He was right. I wouldn't kill them. Yes, I would leave, but my death threats hadn't been very resolute. This man has called my bluff.
I hesitate, my mind racing, gauging what I have to lose versus what I have to gain. And I realize, I have nothing at all. There's nothing I'm risking by deciding to trust these three for a little while and perhaps even learn more about my Songs.
"Fine," I say. "But if I change my mind, I'm leaving."
"Alright," says Haze, and his face lights up in a brilliant smile that makes him look hideously beautiful. All the tension evaporates in an instant, and even the white-haired man almost drops his defensive stance. "Would you care to introduce yourself?"
"My name is Jacklyn," I say, feeling myself relax as the three of them do. Part of me is still wary, but part is nervous, excited.
"Haze," says the man, extending a hand toward me. I close the distance between us and shake his hand. One hand reaches for mine while the other becomes a blur of motion that I almost don't even notice. Before I can comprehend what he's doing, he's already stolen back one of his knives.
"Don't worry," he assures me as I jump back defensively. "I'm only taking back what's mine. I don't intend on harming you. Although the same might not be true of my brother," he says, pointing to where the white-haired man lounges.
"He's right," says the man, almost smiling. He leans against the wall as if he's part of it, reminding me of a feral cat that could pounce or run at any moment. Unless my eyes are trained on him, he seems to disappear into the background, a shadow despite his brilliant hair. His eyes dart from Haze to Vice, constantly checking on them, making sure he could get in between them and any attack.
"You three are brothers?" I ask, glancing between the three of them.
"Not by blood," answers Haze with a laugh, standing close to the white-haired brother. "But in every other respect, yes. Now introduce yourself properly," he says, nudging his brother in the ribs.
"My name is Marrow," he says simply, his voice still sounding like a growl. He meets my eyes but doesn't offer a hand or apologize for his treatment of me earlier. Ruthless. The word enters my mind again. I narrow my eyes and grin at him wickedly. He glares in return but the expression in his eyes changes for a moment and I know he's amused.
"I'm Vice, as you might've heard already," says the man with black hair. He steps over to Marrow and Haze, looking as feral and dangerous as Marrow, but with beauty like Haze.
"You made good bait," I say, a challenge veiled in my voice. "You can bet I won't fall for it again, though."
He grins, his blue eyes alight. "We'll see."
"Let's go," says Marrow, standing up and walking away without a single glance over his shoulder. Haze falls into step behind him, and Vice brings up the rear after giving me a last wink.
I hesitate for a moment, knowing that this is my chance to leave. I doubt they would try to stop me.
"Are you coming?" asks Vice, glancing back at me. His brothers disappear into the night, but he pauses, waiting for my reply.
"Of course I am," I say after a moment, then bound after him into the darkness. I hear his laugh as he draws ahead of me, catching up with his brothers. I follow him easily as my Song comes to my lips again. I dart through the alleyways, feeling strength course through my veins. I am alive when I Sing. I am part of the night.
[A/N: Looks like it's the start of yet another new story. Please let me know what you think so far in either a review or a PM. Thanks! ~DarkHawk14]