…!

The alarm sounding throughout the manor room abruptly let out a shrill shriek and fell silent, victim to a slender black shoe flying through the air and slamming into its face full force.

Struggling to sit up, a short, spirited brunette glanced at the alarm clock, eyes half lidded with sleep. The clock lay on its side, silent.

"Emily? Are you alive in there? If you don't hurry up, you're going to be late for practice, and you know Monsieur Jacques will kill you if you are! After all, you are…"

Emily tuned the voice of her best friend Sidney out of her head as she struggled to roll out of bed, her body sore in places she didn't even knew existed. The soreness complimented the ache in her head from drinking too much the night before.

Standing up, she walked across the room to the window, throwing open the blinds. Dull sunlight penetrated through, promising another warm, muggy day ahead. Emily's thoughts ran with the heat.

When am I ever going to be strong enough to do what must be done? Haven't enough people died for this course? I wish to avenge my father, but how can I do that? My training isn't nearly complete, and I am swiftly running out of time.

Sighing, she stepped away from the window. Quickly she dressed in a comfortable mix of jogging shorts and a skin-tight tank, complete with combat sneakers. Pausing long enough to throw her hair into a ponytail, she grabbed her equipment bag and exited the room.

Softly closing the door behind her, Emily hurtled down the stairs and out the front door, throwing Sidney a swift salute in the process. "I'll be back soon Sid! Keep an eye on things for me, would you? And don't forget to feed Jae!"

Sidney threw her a civilian salute without looking up from the tube, turned into an all day shopping network. "Will do! Just don't forget your shit this time!"

Shaking her equipment bag at Sidney through the open window as she jogged past, Emily increased her speed to a military sprint as she headed out of her neighborhood toward downtown.

Desolation greeted her as she hit the main drag. Tall, imposing buildings, many crumbling to dust with age and neglect, stood empty. Blown out windows greeted the rising sun instead of pearly glass. Once a thriving metropolis, Faelig at one time was a bustling commercial city, advertising everything from legal services to gun running, open air markets to prostitution. However, looking through some of the windows she passed, Emily could only shudder at the rats and human detritus littering the long forgotten empire.

And here I thought I was merely lucky, living on the outskirts of town and time. Out there is paradise compared to this hell, Emily thought, turning off the drag into one of the smaller buildings intersecting the sky rises.

Pure instinct guided her actions as a piercing whistle filled the air. Throwing herself into a backbend, she scythed her legs apart, narrowly avoiding the dagger hurled from the darkness. Landing lightly on her feet, she cocked herself into a fighting stance not a moment too soon.

Stalking through the shadows came a creature born of her darkness nightmares, yet one she had seen before. The Voyu, an undead creature born from a miasma of fear and betrayal, smiled as she stood her ground.

"You are a brave little one to walk these empty streets alone," it rasped, poisonous fangs dripping liquid death. "Jacques said I would find you here, unprotected. He also said you had been training under his tutelage. Let us just see how well you do against one such as me."

Emily started in disbelief, unable to shake the sense of dread that shook her to her core. "Jacques…?" She had no time to say anything more.

With a hiss, the Voyu whipped its leg up into the side of her head, the force throwing her across the room. Without wasting a moment's breath, it followed after her.

Emily stood up shakily, her vision swimming from the force of the blow. Struggling to clear the darkness encroaching upon her conscience, she pulled her twin daggers from the sheathes strapped to her ankles. Setting herself, she grimaced at the blood that ran down the side of her face.

The undead being circled around her, watching her every move with an experienced eye. He knew what she was capable of, as well as any. He had watched her train from the shadows, an unseen observer to the deadly grace and dance of her blades. He had no doubts that should she get the chance, she would slaughter him.

He smiled to himself. He wasn't about to give her that chance.

With a sudden feint to the left, he darted right as her daggers flashed in the morning light, cutting through the air where he had stood a moment before. Spinning to face her, he marveled at her speed as she dropped to the ground and sliced into his leg, just above the femoral artery.

"Well done, my dear, well done," a velvet tinged voice said behind her. She paused in her attack, blades dipping slightly as the Voyu stepped away. Emily knew that voice.

"Monsieur?", she whispered, fearful of turning around and seeing a specter.

Her attacker smiled and bowed as the air in the doorway shimmered. Stepping in from the light outside was a man many believed to be a myth.

Standing tall, with his head held high, Jacques cut quite the figure in a snow-white suit, complete with white loafers; a far cry from his usual fighting leathers. His salt and pepper hair contrasted with the firmness of his body, made hard from years of teaching martial arts masters. Yet it was his eyes that held Emily, striking blue irises holding onto her own blue orbs, full of approval.

She bowed low, mindful of the Voyu watching from behind her. "Master….why would you let one of your own attack me? Have a disappointed you in some way?", she asked, heartbeat beginning to slow back to normal.

"No, he merely wished to test your mettle against one such as me." The silky voice behind her bore no resemblance to the hissing she heard earlier, accented by the sound of cloth rustling as the Voyu bowed to her. "Pray forgive me. My name is Marek, bodyguard to the Monsieur. Pleased to meet you."

"Marek believed that you he could best you one on one, m'dear. It seems as though had the fight drawn out, it may be that you would have held your own. Although he does hold the edge on healing."

To Emily's astonishment, the wounds that she inflicted on his legs began to knit themselves together, sinew and muscle repairing themselves before her eyes. She shook her head in disbelief as Marek smiled.

"Us Voyu…we are not like you mortals. We come from a mortal background, all of us. We all used to be farmers and tradesman, from every walk of life. We had families who loved us, kids we raised as best we could, not that this city is worth the shit we gave it. Unfortunately, those of us who were turned all had a run in with a man named Grant."

"He promised us immortality, the freedom to do as we please…so long as we followed his orders. At first, it wasn't too bad. We had our fill of women, drugs, life. We did as he decreed, in exchange for this gift. But in the end, it wasn't worth it."

Anger could be heard within his voice. "He began ordering us to kill innocents, people he believed led him astray or whom he had debt to. Being as we were his, we were forced to obey; even if we wished not too. He told us that any who wouldn't do as he asked would be killed, so we did as he bid. All except for me."

Emily shook her head. "If you were his to control…how did you get away?"

Jacques stepped forward. "I saved him. That in itself is a long story; suffice to say I broke the connection between Grant and Marek. You see, every Voyu that Grant makes has a soul bond with him. You break that bond, and you break the link."

"Ok, I can understand that. And I thank you for the history lesson. But why have Marek attack me?"

Sighing softly, the martial arts master looked her dead in the eye. "Because I know how you wish for vengeance for your father's death. I have seen the way that you cry when you think no one is looking. I have seen the way your anger controls your actions when it is spoken of. The Voyu killed your father. If you wish to stand a chance, you must train with one."

Emily looked from Marek to Jacques. "I understand. Marek. Do not take it easy on me. Push me as far as you have too. If you must push me until I am dead, do it. Just teach me how to fight against your kind."

He bowed once again. "As you wish. Just don't blame me when you go home in pain and humiliation."