GEPARD VALK (Chapters 1-3) (First Draft)


By Darragh Egan

As I watched humankind die, I didn’t know what to do. Save them? After what they’d done, they should be tortured with every method known. Kill them? I was one of them. I couldn’t do that. Watch it? It was disgusting. Impossible. Leave? The only thing to do. But as I walked away from the end of humankind, I knew I had to help. Did I hate them? Yes. Did I care for them? No. But I had to help.

Chapter 1
The sound of metal on metal echoed throughout the alleyway. Two men, one teenage boy with spiky black hair, lightning blue eyes, and a muscular chin, and a man, his long greasy hair plastered to his scalp, his dark green eyes focused on the sword in his hand, and his ugly snarl showing his yellowed teeth were moving incredulously fast, swiping and poking swords at each other. It was obvious from the looks on their faces that it was a life or death battle.
  The teenager dodged a fist from the man and ran to the wall behind him. He kicked his foot off the dirty wall, and jumped, flipping himself in the air, landing behind the man. He swiped his clean metal sword and it ripped through the man’s jacket, slicing his back. The man screamed and spun round, his own sword flashing at the teenager with such speed it was near impossible to see. It stroked the wrist of the teenager. He dropped his sword.
  The teenager grabbed his wrist and closed his eyes in pain. But he couldn’t give up. He went to pick up his sword but the man kicked him away with his torn boot.
  “Gepard Valk, on his knees,” the man chuckled. “I never thought I’d see the day. And me, of all men. You are such a strong Elemental, yet my binder seems to have taken all your power from you. A mere bat skin, some trankins, and a ring from Acridon.”
  The man went down to his knees and dipped his head an inch from Gepard Valk’s.
  “Such a pity that your life has been so short. Seventeen.”
  “It isn’t over yet, and I plan on keeping it that way for a long time,” Gepard Valk said, his voice soft, yet deep.
   Sarthacus got up and turned away, his head rising as he looked into the night sky, before turning back to Gepard with a look of… was that pain?
  “Stay still or I’ll kill you within a heartbeat.” He sighed and sat down. “My sister was a fool, she always was. It was always death with her, she always wanted to be in control of everything. But, look where that got her. Now, I am not going to kill you for her, but I cannot just let you go. You are my biggest enemy. So, I am afraid I am going to have to kill you.”
  “You know they’ll come looking for you, they’ll know you’ll have killed me and they’d have put in jail as soon as they found you.”
  Gepard silently stretched out his hand and grabbed his sword. He stood up and poked it into the back of the man’s neck.
  “But too late to kill me anyway,” Gepard said through clenched teeth.
  “Like your sister, you’ve taken innocent lives. Too many of them.”
  “Well yes, but the thing is…”
  Then Sarthacus jumped, and kept going up, until he reached the top of the building above.
  “The thing is, I’m more powerful than you!” He called down before jumping into the night sky.
  As Gepard left the alley, he wrapped a bit of tissue he found up his sleeve around his wrist to stop the blood getting everywhere, then he bent down to pick up his sword. There was one word etched into the shining silver. Savior.
Gepard tucked the sword inside his trench coat pocket. It had been specially designed to hold the sword itself. He furrowed his brows as a memory started to creep its way into his mind.
  He watched from younger eyes as big kids punched a little boy with glasses. He was only about ten, and the big kids were around fourteen. Gepard has to do something, he had to help. So he marched over and told them stop. “Leave him alone!” he had shouted. The bullies as Gepard had now declared them turned their evil-grinned faces to him and shoved the boy with the glasses to the floor where he groaned before vomiting. Gepard looked up into the three faces. One red-headed boy with freckles, one black-haired boy and one boy who had a long woolly hat on that nearly covered his eyes. They began to laugh, more like cackling. “You shouldn’t pick on people,” Gepard told them calmly. Their cackling stopped and their eyes became harsh.
  “What’s it to you if we do, kid? It’s not like you can stop us!” the red-headed one said, giving Gepard a shove.  Then the others started shoving him too and before he knew it one of them had him on the ground. He kicked out and felt the strong impact his hard shoe had on the black-haired boy’s private area. He went down, his hands holding the sensitive place whilst tears streamed out his eyes and he wailed like a baby. But Gepard couldn’t protect himself as the teenagers drew knives. Would they really hurt him for just kicking their friend? Yes they were.
  The red-headed boy swiped with his green-handled Swiss-army knife, a big sneer on his face. Gepard scrambled backwards quickly and the knife just missed his face, but it cut through his long, grey t-shirt and into his chest. He screamed out in pain and his eyes began to water. One swipe like that could kill someone of his age. Gepard could feel the blood gushing from his body, like a volcano erupting for the first time.  Another slash, more blood. His eyes were blurred, like someone had sewn them to plastic. Fire erupted in his stomach as his breathing grew heavier and he heard running footsteps. He reached out his hand for something to hold and found a ledge. He pulled with all his strength and was brought forward, he pulled again and again, until he stood. He walked forward, swaying in all directions, nearly collapsing in the arms of death. But then, just as he though it was the end, he saw something. Something that shouldn’t have been there. It was a light, was it heaven? No, but he knew it would be his saviour. He reached out as the light flashed repeatedly, drawing him in, wanting him to come near. His hand touched some kind of metal and instantly his vision returned. And there, clutched in his hand, was a sword. And it awakened his powers.
  He fell out of the memory, a smile on his face. He’d remembered something. He’d forgotten a lot after the War of Sorcerers. He’d been knocked out by enemy sorcerers, and his friend Otar had been killed. It had badly affected his memory
  Gepard walked the streets of Kerry to his car, letting the memory of how his powers were awakened drift into the depths of his mind. On his license it said he was nearly nineteen. It was true that it was nearly his birthday, but he was going to be eighteen, not nineteen. He opened the door to his lightning blue Aston Martin DBS and took the keys from his pocket. He barely ever locked the car. He sat into the right side, the driver’s side. The leather seats nestled into his back ever so nicely. Gepard sighed comfortably before he turned the key and accelerated away to his house.
  The night was cold, and the moon shone full overhead. As Gepard drove, he could feel the power and speed of the car as if they were one. He moved the gear stick with no effort.
  He lived in the country, away from city nonsense. He just couldn’t hack it, all the noise. So he bought the most amazing house. He had designed the interior himself, using the funds he’d gotten from robbing a bank. One bank robbery in Sweden was all it took to be set for life.
  He drove up the drive to his lovely bungalow house. The black outside kept any humans from entering. It was actually rather ugly on the outside, purposely of course. Humans tried not to enter ugly buildings if they could. As he got out of his car,  he saw the blood from his wrist had fallen through the tissue onto the driver’s seat. It would stain if he didn’t clean it quick. He ran to his brown, stained door. They key pressed into the lock and Gepard heard the soft click he was used to.
  In through the doorway it was much different than outside the house. The walls were painted with a lovely baize, and the floor had a black designer carpet in the entry hall.
  Straight passed the entry hall you could see a kitchen. The walls were the same colour as the hall, and the floors had the tiles. Saucepans were hanging above the oven to the left, along with whisks, giant knives and what not. To the right in the kitchen was a table, chairs placed evenly around it. It was a simple table, glass. The chairs were black leather.
  Off to the left of the kitchen was his bedroom. Nothing spectacular, a bed, a chair, a cheap TV. A bathroom.
  Then to the right of the entry hall was the living room. A flat-screen TV sat in the bottom-left hand corner. A white couch was placed in the middle of the room, facing the TV, to it’s left, a little table, on which sat a bowl full of sweets.
  To the left of the entry hall was a door that was always locked, whether Gepard was inside it or not. It was his training room. It was filled with guns, training stuff and all kinds of weapons.
  Gepard ran to the kitchen, his feet making no noise as they bounced on the tiles. He opened up a cupboard near the oven and quickly took out some kitchen paper and spray. Then he ran back to his car and got off what he could of the blood. He sighed as a small blob stained.
  He sat into the driver’s seat and closed  the door. He slammed his fist down on the steering wheel, making the horn go off. He kept his fist there, tightening the grip he had on his own fingers in his palm. The horn wasn’t going to stop anytime soon.
  I let him get away, Gepard thought to himself, I’m useless. I was beat in The War, and I haven’t gotten any major bad mages down. Maybe I should use it again. The normal elements are fine, but they’re not strong enough. That’s why I was recruited, because of it. Oh, I don’t know. I need sleep.
  Gepard woke to the sound of a knock on his front door. He shoved his bed covers off and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He raised his hands to his head and lightly wiped the sleep from his eyes. He pulled on a pair of tight black jeans and a white t-shirt that clung to him.
   I really need some new clothes, he thought to himself as he pushed himself off the bed, and opened his bedroom door. Looking past the kitchen, he could see a shadow outside his door. Groaning, he hurried down the hall and pulled open the door.
  “What do you want?” Gepard asked through clenched teeth.
  “What, no hug?” A slender girl with blonde hair and hazel eyes asked.
  “No hug.  Seriously, what are you doing here? You said you were going to Chanji to fight Jorkfeb.
  “Oh yeah… Turns out, I don’t have a passport. And I spent all my money getting here.
  Gepard glared at the girl for a minute, then said, “Fine, come in. You can sleep on the couch.
  “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” The girl shouted, jumping at Gepard, wrapping her arms around his neck.
  “So, what have you been up to lately?” The girl asked, jumping onto the couch.
  “Nothing much, just trying to kill Sarthacus Bolt.”
  At the name of Sarthacus Bolt, the girl’s jaw dropped open.
  “Seriously Quinn, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I mean, yes, he’s gotten away plenty. But I’m getting stronger, faster, smarter, figuring out his technique. I’ll have him locked away, or dead, soon enough.”
  “Want me to help?”
  “No, I’m fine. You just.. Umm, do whatever it is you do.”
  Quinn laid back on the couch and closed her eyes. Gepard sighed and walked outside, gathering her stuff. There were three suitcases and oversized bags. He brought them into the sitting room and left them in the corner.
   Gepard sat down next to her.
  “I’m going to Klicksheb, if you want to come,” he said.
  “Oh, I do love Klicksheb. You can buy the best, well, everything there,” Quinn said, sitting up.
  “So, you want to come?”
  “No thanks. I think I’ll sleep a while.”
  “Fine by me. There’s food and drink in the fridge, and the TV remote is hidden behind the TV itself. Bye.”
  Quinn nodded, her eyes half closed already. Gepard got up, grabbed his coat and walked out the door, to his car. He felt around in his coat pocket for his keys and put them in. He started the ignition, and drove off.

Chapter 2

There was a special way to get to Klicksheb. A special route, and a teleportation field that only teleports if you know what to do. Gepard slowed as he came to a cross in the road, his wheels making a crunch on the stones that were littered around the place.
  Klicksheb, he thought.
  Klicksheb, Klicksheb, Klicksheb.
  The car made a grunt noise and when Gepard drove on, he was in a small town-square. There were stalls everywhere, with different bits and bobs, who-the-whatsits and thingamabobs. There were mages everywhere, some in robes, some in battle gear, some dressed like Gepard, a t-shirt and jeans.
  He drove forward, until a thin man waved his hand. Gepard pushed the window button and it whizzed down. The man walked over.
  “I have a spot in my car park if you want it,” he said, his voice very nasally.
  “Okay, thanks,” Gepard replied, driving his car left into a big field.
  It seemed the man had been wrong and there were no spots left, until he got to the very end. He drove in between a big jeep, and a Bentley. He got out, and locked the door.
  He concentrated on the air, the way it flowed, the way it moved, the way it could become part of him, protect him, be him. He put his hands out, right palm on left hand, and motioned in a circle. He could feel a thin layer of air spread over his car.
  That’ll protect you from all this dirt, he thought. He walked off, ankle deep in mud. As he trudged through the mud, he let the magic around him flow into his fingertips, around his body.
  Now, to get rid of this mud, Gepard thought. He felt the moisture in the air, water. He felt the mud underneath him, earth. He felt the heat of the day, of any day, whether it was raining or not, fire, and he felt the air.
  He opened his palm and the mud dried up, into cracks. He curled his fingertips, summoning a flame. It burst out of thin air, onto his palm, dancing as the wind blew about. It was like they were playing a game, back and forth, back and forth.
  He bent down to his dry mud-coated shoes, and let the flame melt them again, making them slip from the shoes, onto the ground. When he was done, he put his hand in the air, eyes closed, and summoned the water.
  He could feel it, being pulled towards him, arrogant, it tried to push away. Water was always hard. He curled his fingers ferociously, and the water was conquered.
  He shot his hand downwards, and the water splashed onto his shoes, taking with it the last of the mud.
  “Thank you,” Gepard said to the water in the air.
  He walked out the way he had come, nodding to the thin man, and stood in awe of Klicksheb. Mages were walking and running about, holding potions and spell books, and other strange items.
  Gepard walked over to a booth say ‘Ye Faithful’ and picked up one of the many black books on the table. The Title wrote ‘The Ones We Love’. He opened up the book, and after he read the first four words he slammed the book shut and threw it on the table, furiously walking away.
  He hated The Believers, as they called themselves. They believed in the most foulest of things. Like their beloved gods. Gepard had forgotten their names, but they were sometimes known as The Ones We Love. There were other things they believed in, but mostly the gods.
  Gepard walked to the next booth, picking up a lovely red dagger. It curved, pointing upwards, the handle made of Oak. Gepard smiled as he made a quick slash with it. It felt so right.
  “How much?” He asked the tall, fat man behind the counter.
  “Hundred and twelve euro. One of five ever made, best bargain you’ll ever get.”
  Gepard loved the dagger. And it would come in handy. He had a fair amount of money with him, much more than what the dagger cost.
  “Make it ninety-five and you have a deal.”
  “Oh.. Fine.”
  The fat man held out his hand, as Gepard reached inside his coat for money. He brought out ninety-five euro and took five back. He smiled at the man as he was given his new dagger.
  He tucked the dagger in an inside pocket of his coat and walked down the road to a stall saying ‘Cures and Magical Potions’. Vials and bottles and medals of all sorts, filled with different colours liquid sat on the table.
  Gepard picked up a random bottle and read the label. ‘Dobfob Juice’. Gepard laughed at the name, and set it down again as it started to bubble. He looked around the stall for the owner, but it only looked like there were only buyers.
  “Hello?” he called. “Anyone there?”
  No answer. He waited three minutes then looked through the bottles and vials. He found four healing potions, put them in his jacket pocket, then threw fourty euro down on the table, putting a bottle on top of it to stop it from blowing away.
  He walked away from the stand and heard a scream. He looked toward it and saw a woman being beat up by a man in a mask. He ran to them, splaying his fingers at the man, pushing the air. The man flew backwards and slammed into an ‘Ingredients’ stand. The stand crumpled under his weight.
  Gepard helped the woman up. She had a black eye forming. She smiled at him and said, “Thanks,” then staggered. Gepard caught her and sat her down on a bench nearby.
  “Why did he attack you?” Gepard asked, looking over the man who was now being arrested.
  “I don’t know. He just came over and started hitting me. Thanks again.”
  “Seriously, no problem. I hate people like him, no conscience. They an-“
  He was cut off by the sound of screams, and yells, and thinks being smashed. People dressed like the man in the mask were running into Klicksheb, destroying things, hurting people. You’d never think that everyone here was a sorcerer by the way they just stood there.
  “Oh my God,” the woman said, scrambling up from her seat.
  “Go home. I’ll try and help people here. It’s okay,” Gepard said as the woman began to protest.
  She smiled and ran the opposite direction of where the masked men were coming.
  Gepard ran to one, who was trying to steal things from a stall. He grabbed his shoulder with his left hand and spun him round, his right fist going for the face. The man stumbled, but only for a little, and then his foot came to meet Gepard’s stomach.
  The air left him and he collapsed to the ground, his hand clutching his chest, like he could push air in. Then an idea came to him, he could. He summoned the air, and pushed it into him. He couldn’t concentrate and didn’t summon enough air. More, he thought. This time enough rushed into him.
  He stood up, grabbing the man’s mask and ripping it off. He gasped at the monstrosity underneath. His face was pitch black, and his eyes were just big blobs of red. He had no mouth or nose, but you could hear him breathe.
  The man raised his arm to punch, but Gepard curled his fingers and flicked a flame onto his shirt. The man screamed as it grew bigger, and bigger, enveloping him completely.
  The man ran, flipped over a bench, and flickered. Flickered. Like TVs when they’re broken. Gepard watched as the man disappeared altogether.
  He was stunned, but didn’t have much time until another masked man came up behind him. He grabbed Gepard and kneed him in the back of his shin. Pressure point. Gepard went to his knees, turned, grabbing the man’s leg, and twisted it, turning him round. Gepard shoved, using the air to push harder, and the man shot away like a torpedo, and crashed into a stall, flickering, then disappearing.
  At last, the other sorcerers were fighting back, using their powers. A jet of red flew past Gepard and hit an incoming masked man. He dissolved straight away. He didn’t have time to look who had done it as a man was thrown off his feet, onto Gepard.
  Gepard shoved him off. He was dead. His blank eyes started at nothing. He looked at the masked men who did it. Two of them, they had scythes. Gepard pushed at the air, but they slashed their scythes and it had no effect. He curled his fingers on both hands and summoned flames. The ground underneath him became solid, the wet of the rain instantly stopping where his shoes were.
  He ran, the ground dry under every step he took. The masked men readied their scythes as he came at them. He threw the flames as a distraction, and as they beat them away, he jumped, kicking his feet into their chests. They stumbled, but they were instantly swiping their scythes.
  One of them slashed across Gepard’s chest, and blood poured out. He fell to the ground, all feeling gone. His eyes closed, then opened. He saw a blur of red and then a hand reaching for him.
  He woke up, someone tilting something into his mouth. He looked down. It was one of the healing potions. He drank, the taste warm and sweet, it tasted a bit like honey and melted chocolate. He sat up and looked at them. A man with, tanned, with blonde hair and bright-red eyes. His hands seemed to glow red too, not actually glow, but they seemed to have a shimmer of red about them. 
  “It was you,” Gepard said, “You were the one that killed them. Thank you.. I would be dead if you hadn’t-“
  “Don’t worry about it,” the man smiled. He looked around nervously, then looked to Gepard’s cut which was nearly healed. “Are you strong enough to help? I need to get to my squad. They’ll help clear this place up, and get rid of these things,” he gestured toward the masked men, well, monsters really.
  “Sure, I’ll help.”
  Gepard got up, wincing as he did so. He stayed where stood for a moment or two until his mind focused. A thought came to him.
  “I forgot to ask you your name,” he said.
  “Darkine Lunlow,” he said, “and you’re Gepard Valk. Elemental extraordinaire.”
  “You still believe that after I was nearly slashed to pieces by those things?”
  “I sure do. I’ve heard what you’ve done in the past. And I know a little of what you’ll do in the future.”
  “What do you mean?”
  “I’m a psychic. That’s my power. It’s mainly hand power of course, but if I focus really hard I can see some of the future. And no, I won’t tell you what happens.”
  “That’s fine, I know you’re not allowed.”
  They started running, Gepard following Darkine. They passed people being attacked. Gepard knew that if they were hurt, he’d feel the guilt. Darkine nodded to his left and he led Gepard into a clearing. There were tents set up, fifteen or so. The were grey, nothing special, nothing big. Men stood around, they all had dark clothes that seemed to be a uniform of some sort. There were no patterns, just the same colour from neck to toe. Some of them had swords in their  hands, other had guns, magazines strapped around their necks. They looked like they were ready to enter  a warzone.
  Only one person stood apart form everyone else. They had a cap on, the same colour as the uniform, and they had their back to Gepard. He pointed to the person and asked Darkine, “Who’s that?”
  Darkine replied with, “Sarah. Newest recruit. We have to leave girls in now.” He said this which such disgust that it would’ve been easy to think he hated her.
  “So, what are we going to do?” Gepard asked.
  “We’re going to fight. That’s what we do.” Darkine started to walk towards the group that was now gathering in the centre of the clearing. “We’re part of the SR. Secret Resistance. Terrible name since we’re actually hired by the government, and we fight for them, not against them. It used to be that we fought against them, but then the war came. Anyway, briefing time.”
  They stopped in front of the group and Darkine held up his right hand. Everyone instantly stopped talking and looked very serious.
  “They’re here. They’ve already raided, earlier than we expected. No sign of the target yet, but I think we should intervene-“
  “But sir, we can’t! We have strict instruction to-“
  “I know what our instructions are Sarah, thank you very much. Now, as I was saying, we ought to intervene. Things are getting out of control. This boy was nearly killed! Slashed across his chest! The health potion I gave him barely worked! This is intolerable. I for one cannot stand about while people are killed. And even though the target hasn’t appeared yet, I’m sure he will once we start ripping his monsters to nothing. By the way, they disappear. Once you’re about to kill them, or they’re about to die, they flicker and disappear.”
  “I’ve read about these things, sir. They’re called Ganits. They’re holograms that turn physical for a period of time. If their physical form is hurt, then it shuts down and returns to its pod. However, someone can fix it quite quickly. Just some wiring and then they can be sent in a physical form again. Takes about a minute,” the girl, Sarah, said. She flashed a smile at everyone, hoping they’d be happy about her being a know-it-all.
  Most people ignored her, some people said “Cool,” and two people politely smiled back at her. Darkine was just looking into the sky. It looked like he was thinking about a lot of things. Then he looked directly at Sarah.
  “Is there a range limit in which you have to be to work the holograms?”
  “Yes sir. A four mile radius.”
  “Okay. Sarah, I’m entrusting you with something very big here. Take five men and go and find whoever is working the holograms. Use a tracker to find a massive power source. Something like that would definitely use a lot of power. Jeremy, Galin, Hanly, Fern, Injop and Gepard, you all come with me. It’s time we had ourselves a little fun.”
  Gepard and Darkine ran into Klicksheb to find the holograms had gotten everyone into a corner.
  “For goodness sake, what kind of sorcerers are they?” Gepard shook his head.
  “Maybe their powers aren’t as good as ours. I mean, you were nearly killed so obviously these things are strong,” Darkine said.
  They were still running, round some broken stalls, ducking when the holograms turned round. Gepard grabbed a stone that lay near him and tossed it in the opposite direction. When the holograms heard it, two of them ran to see what is was. Ten remained.
  The plan was that they’d lure the holograms away, few by few, and kill them. Two were most definitely dead now. Gepard knew this because Darkine had an iPhone. He was text messaged by one of the men saying ‘Deceased’. Gepard was surprised his iPhone was still intact.
  The holograms turned towards the sorcerers again and Gepard used the air to rustle a bush to their right. The holograms only looked, then went back to the sorcerers. Gepard used the air again, harder, and two more holograms ran over. They were behind a stall now. Gepard sneaked over, curling his fingers and summoning silent flames to his hands. He kicked them in the back, send them over the bush to the ground. He threw the flames and the holograms lit up for a moment until they flickered and disappeared.
  Gepard nodded to Darkine, and saw him poking at his iPhone. The holograms seemed to have noticed that the four hadn’t come back yet. They were becoming uneasy. Gepard felt the air around shift and before he knew it he was being thrown into the air. He landed on the broken stall where Darkine was.
  He roared as a piece of sharp wood stuck out of his back. Darkine tried to shush him but it was too late. All the holograms were moving in, their scythes in their hands. Gepard pulled the wood free and chucked it at the hologram who had hit him. The hologram slashed it with his scythe before it hit his face.
  Darkine’s hand flashed red and a jet of red light flashed from them, shooting through two holograms, disintegrating them. He worked his magic until two holograms slashed at his wrists in unison. He screamed in horror and pain as his hands dropped to the ground and blood poured out, forming a puddle around him. He fainted and Gepard jumped off the table, blood running down his back.
  He stood between Darkine and the last two holograms. He tried calling for help, but his throat was dry and no words formed. He felt woozy. He staggered, tried pushing at the air but only managed to get a breeze. Concentrate, he told himself. He breathed in, and pushed. A huge gust of wind shot past him into the holograms just as the slashed. The scythes were swung round and went through their necks. Their heads fell to the ground, flickering and disappearing just as the they touched it. Their bodies went with them.
  Gepard staggered over to the sorcerers who were no help at all and told them to run, go home. They did as they were told, but one stayed behind and bandaged Gepard up.
  “Is my sister here?” She asked, her blonde hair falling of her eyes.
  “Who’s your sister?” Gepard asked.
  “Oh, no. She’s gone.. Gone doing something.” Gepard didn’t know if this woman knew about the SR.
  As soon as he was patched up he walked over to where Darkine lay. He was drenched in blood. He seemed to be near death. His breathing was heavy and slow.
  Gepard took a healing potion form his pocket and tilted it into Darkine’s mouth. Darkine stayed breathing heavy and slowly for a few minutes, then picked up. Soon, his eyes were open and he was gasping for air. His hands seemed to have stopped bleeding. And Gepard could’ve sworn that they’d grown back a bit. Did healing potions work on that sort of injury?
  “It’s okay,” he said to Darkine, “You’re fine.”
  “Where’s… Sarah?” He said through deep breaths.
  “Not back yet. Has she called you?”
  Darkine nodded to his pocket and Gepard felt through the blood for the phone. He brought it out and wiped the blood from the screen with his sleeve. A missed call and one message. Gepard checked the call. It was from Sarah. The text was from here too. It said ‘Sir, come quickly, we need your help. I’ve sent you the location.’
  “How do you get locations on this?” Gepard asked him, confused as he’d never handled something with touch screen before.
  Darkine had returned to breathing normally now, his hands half grown back, to the place where his fingers just started to grow.
  “Location App.”
  Gepard poked through the phone for a minute or so until he found the Location App.
  “Oh, cool,” he said as a picture with Sarah’s name popped up. “They’re about one and a half miles away.”
  “Want me to wait for you?” Gepard asked. “Oh and your men haven’t come back yet…”
  “Go. I’ll find them. You’ll need someone though.”
  “I have someone. Can I use your phone?”

Chapter 3
Quinn Helps
Gepard called Quinn and told her what had happened. She said she’d be there in ten minutes. He waited with Darkine until she came. His hands were nearly fully grown back.
  As Gepard and Quinn, who was dressed in battle gear, black strength clothes, steel-capped toes and daggers around her waist, left, Darkine got up and coughed to get their attention.
  “I’ve changed my mind. I’m going with you.” Gepard felt it was weird the way Darkine directed it toward Quinn and not him.
  “Okay, but what about your men?” Gepard asked, slightly worried.
  “They’ll be fine. Let’s go.”
  “Okay. We can take my car.”
  They reached his car and Quinn sat in the passenger side, Darkine in the back.
  As they drove, they talked.
  “So Quinn, what’s your full name?” Darkine asked.
  “Quinn Elfico.”
  “Elfico.. That’s Italian isn’t it? It means—“
  “Elvish. I’m part elf. Prime elf family. Except the half bit… I have normal ears. I can sprout wings. I can go small, go tall. The size thing isn’t very helpful, and the wings can barely hold me. So basically, my elf side sucks. I’m part sorcerer too. My power is infatuation, isn’t that right Gepard?” Quinn smiled and winked at Gepard.
  “Also, I’m quite good with weaponry, since my powers suck,” Quinn finished, taking out a dagger and tracing the sharp edges with her left index finger.
  Darkine looked a little uncomfortable in the backseat so Gepard started a conversation up.
  “So, uh, Darkine, how’s life?”
  Gepard was a terrible conversationalist.
  “What sort of stuff does the SR usually do?”
  “What’s the SR,” Quinn asked.
  “Secret Resistance. It’s a government thing. Anyway, we usually take down stray monsters, bad sorcerers, things like that,” Darkine explained.
  “Cool..” Gepard said, feeling more awkward than before.
  He was glad when they reached the destination.
  It was a huge mansion, painted red. A bright red. Red would normally be very ugly on an house, but it made the mansion look beautiful. Giant windows showed the top floor. Bedrooms was all that was up there. The bottom floor seemed to be closed off from sunlight, because there was no windows, and the middle floor had three windows, looking into a gym of some sort.
  It didn’t seem anyone was actually in the house. Gepard parked his car outside. As much as he hated leaving it unattended outside a house where something bad was definitely going on, he had to.
  They walked to the door and tried to open it knowing it would be locked. They were right, it was locked.
  “Want to do it?” Gepard asked Darkine who shook his head.
  “Alrighty then.”
  Gepard smashed his foot into the door and it blew off it’s hinges.
  “Weak door..” Gepard said.
  They stepped inside and instantly noticed the alarm system that started.
  “Aw, crap.”
  “Run for it?” Darkine asked.
  “If you mean use the tracker thingy to find Sarah and run to her, then yes, run for it.”
  Gepard fiddled with the phone until it beeped, and zoomed in on the mansion. She was in the basement. Gepard and the others ran left, following the phone signal. They were rushing passed paintings of every size and colour. The marble floor underneath them clanged with every step. They slid round a corner and Gepard smacked face first into a hologram man.
  “Seriously?” He whined. “We just finished with you guys.” Gepard sneakily shot his leg around the hologram’s and pushed, sending him backwards to the ground.
  “Quinn,” Gepard said, running on. He looked back and saw her stab a dagger into the hologram’s throat. It flickered and vanished. Gepard ran on and on in a seemingly endless corridor with nothing but plain white walls and a marble-tile floor. He stopped in front of a metal door. The basement. He smiled and drew his sword.
  “Well, this is gonna be fun,“ he smirked. He shot his sword down against the lock and the door opened slightly. He pushed it the rest of the way and silently descended the cold metal stairs. He stopped halfway, hiding behind a square bit of metal on the stairs.
  He could see Sarah, she was hooked up to a white machine that had things stuck into her ears. Gross. She was tied up on a chair, unconscious. He looked round and saw the same machines with different people. Some from the SR, some sorcerers, some human. There were differences between humans and sorcerers. Sorcerers’ skin glowed slightly, humans’ did not.
  Gepard crouched down and reached the end of the stairs. He looked round the banister that ended the stairs and saw Sarah again, but this time he saw holograms as well. They were just appearing out of thin air.
  Damn, Gepard thought, anger filling him. He decided he’d just go on yelling a battle cry. Maybe ‘Argh!’ or ‘Frrrreeeeeddddoooo-mmm!’ He didn’t know which one to choose. He decided to just wave his hand in the air, sword hidden behind his back, screaming, “Deadly eeelleeemmmeennttalllll!”
  And that’s what he did. After his battle cry the holograms looked confused. He took his opportunity and jumped over one hologram, sword swinging from behind his back, through his legs where it went straight the hologram’s head. He flickered and vanished. Gepard landed, crouching, and swung his sword in a full circle, killing three holograms. He stood up and curled his fingers, summoning a flame.
He knew they wouldn’t work against the holograms so he made a second flame in his other hand, then he mashed them together and made a burning soccer ball. Smoke began to lift off the flame, and soon it filled nearly all of the room.
  He ran to Sarah and untied her, then summoned some water on top of her, letting it drop. Her eyes snapped open and she started yelling at Gepard when she noticed the room. She stood up and went to help the other tied-up people. Gepard let the flame evaporate then he returned to the holograms who were very confused.
  “Not too smart, are you?” He smirked as he shot his sword through a stomach. He swung round and flicked his dagger from his coat. It shot up into the air. He stabbed another hologram with his sword in their forehead then caught his dagger. It shone red and then lengthened into a sword.
  “Holy crap,” Gepard said, testing the new sword by slashing it across a hologram’s neck. “Nice.”
  He had the two swords in his hands. He turned, facing three more holograms. They had their scythes ready and slashed at him. He rolled backwards, head coming up first, swiping his swords. The holograms flickered but didn’t disappear.
  Gepard swiped again, through two of their stomachs, but all they did was flicker. He dodged sideways as the scythes came down. He jumped up ran behind them. He looked behind him and saw that they were gone. Delayed response?
  Sarah rushed over, clutching her right arm. Blood stained her uniform.
  “What happened? Did you find the guy that’s controlling them?” Gepard asked, putting his swords away. The holograms were all gone.
  She winced and clutched her arm harder. “No, I didn’t. I was knocked out. I think the guys are dead.”
  “Why is everyone dying?! Umm, you okay? You’re kinda bleeding a lot..”
  Sarah was about to reply when Quinn and Darkine burst down the stairs, weaponry in hand. Yes, Darkine had hands again.
  “Too late, I killed them all with my awesomeness. One glance from this guy and they all dropped,” Gepard smirked, thumbs pointing to himself.
  “I think it was more ugliness than awesomeness,” Quinn laughed. Darkine smiled, trying to hold in his laughter but a low giggle protruded his lips.
  “Whatever. Umm, I think Sarah needs some help.” He nodded at the arm she was still clutching and Quinn started to take some bandages from inside her strengthened top. She wrapped Sarah’s arm as Gepard rested his back against the wall furthest from the stairs. Something moved behind him and he fell backwards. He looked upwards at a moulding ceiling. He rolled over so he was facing the new room. He saw a lot of computers, their screens facing him, and some machines, the same as in the other room. And then in the middle of the computers was a man. His head was seemed to have random puffs of grey hair and he wore a lab coat that surrounded his slim body. He turned to Gepard and a look of extreme fear crossed his face. Gepard jumped up and ran at him, but the man pressed a button on the computer behind him and ten holograms appeared out of nowhere, surrounding Gepard.
  He grabbed his sword and his dagger, which instantly lengthened into the red sword. He flattened himself into a fighting stance and rolled under one of the hologram’s legs. He straightened up and grabbed the man.
  “Shut them down!” he shouted.
  “No! They promised I’d be safe in here! Leave me alone!” the man stuttered. A hologram hit Gepard from behind and sent him to the floor. He could see, from the corner of his eye, Quinn and Darkine fighting with other holograms. Gepard used his two legs and wrapped them around a hologram’s. He twisted and the hologram fell to his knees. Gepard lashed out with one of his swords and the hologram vanished.
  There were only five left. Gepard grabbed the man and shoved him in front of him.
  “You’ll die if you don’t shut them down!” he spat at him.
  “Alright, fine!” the man cried. Gepard turned him round, sword poking into his throat. “Do it.” The man reluctantly pressed a button and the five remaining holograms were sucked back into the machine on the left. Darkine and Quinn stood there, weapons in their hands.
  “So, Mr…?”
  Gepard poked his sword further into the man’s neck. He whimpered and answered, “Farlin.”
  “So, Mr. Farlin, who said you’d be safe?”
  “I.. I can’t say,” he stuttered, his breathing getting heavy.
  Gepard poked his sword even further into Mr. Farlin’s throat until a drop of blood leaked out, descending the slope in which the sword was angled, before dropping to the floor with a tiny plop!
  Mr. Farlin quietly screamed and yelled, “Alright! Alright! I tell you, just don’t hurt me!” He reached to his neck as Gepard lowered the sword, knowing the Mr. Farlin wasn’t a threat. The man whimpered as he looked down at his fingers to see another drop of shining, red liquid.
  “I can’t tell you their names because even I don’t know them, but I can tell you that they’re very bad people. They’re all bad sorcerers, with extraordinary gifts. They have a big plan, of which I only know the basics—they want immortality. They told me that if I helped them clear out Klicksheb they wouldn’t kill me. They wanted something in Klicksheb, I’m not sure what though. That’s all they told me and all I know. I don’t know where they are, who they are or what they are.”
  His stutter had completely disappeared to be replaced with a serious, confident tone for someone who had whimpered over a drop of blood.
  “Okay, Mr. Farlin, I believe you. But I’m going to have to let Darkine here bring you in for what you did at Klicksheb and what you tried to do here,” Gepard said, gesturing behind him to the room where numerous people had been tied up.
  “What are those machines?” Darkine asked, stepping forward so he was directly beside Gepard.
  “I.. I don’t actually know. They gave them to me, and I’ve tried to find out what they do but it’s impossible. But when someone is hooked up to them they lose an awful lot of energy..” Mr. Farlin grimaced as he held his arms out, squeezing them together. He was ready for handcuffs. Darkine took them from where they were hooked on the back of his pants. The glint of the lights above shone on them, slightly making thwm sparkle.
  “These handcuffs will bind your powers and you may feel slightly dizzy once I place them on but that’ll subside after a while.” Darkine clicked the handcuffs into place and Mr. Farlin looked down to the floor, as if he felt ashamed.
  “Thank you,” Gepard said. “You’ve helped us in getting this little bit further into finding out who wanted to raid Klicksheb. I’m sorry they got you mixed up in all this. I’ll tell you how it all plays out.”
  Darkine marched Mr. Farlin out of the room and up the stairs, leaving Gepard and Quinn alone.
  “Well, that was fun,” Quinn muttered.

The drive home was slow, Gepard’s mind was swirling with a lot of questions. Who were these sorcerers? What did they want in Klicksheb? Could they really get immortality? Hadn’t Darkine said something about knowing people were going to raid Klicksheb earlier? All the questions seemed to be clawing at the edge of Gepard’s mind, wanting to be answered, as if it’d complete their life.
  Quinn sat next to him, playing with her hair as she stared out the window. Gepard guessed she had the same questions. Rain poured over the car like a waterfall, and Gepard knew that December was fast coming. The cold filled through the car and he could see his breath in clouds or white air. Had it gotten that cold in just a few minutes?
  A few minutes later Gepard was shivering. “A good idea would be to turn on the heating,” Quinn suggested. Gepard did as he was told and the car instantly started to get warmer. In fact, Gepard had to turn down the heating as it had begun to feel a bit like a sauna. Quinn had gone back to staring out the window, fogging it up every time she let a breath out, then letting it evaporate in a matter of seconds before breathing out again.
  Gepard pulled into his driveway and shut the engine off, listening to the low brrr sound it made as it slowed down. He tugged the keys out and slipped them into his jeans’ pocket.
  When he got out of the car he was attacked by freezing cold rain. It drenched him instantly, soaking through all his clothes, squeezing to his arms. A shiver crawled its way around his body as he walked to the door, slipping the key into the hole. He heard the car door slam shut behind him and pushed the door open, waiting for Quinn. As soon as she came through the door she ran to the living room and jumped onto the couch, pulling a blanket that she must have gotten earlier onto her, squeezing it tight around her. Gepard shut the door, listening to the soft cik! the lock made.
  He left his sword on the kitchen table before he decided he’d relax for what was left of the day, about four hours.  Jumping onto the couch, he stole half the blanket and tugged it over himself. Quinn grumbled but then just turned over and went to sleep. Gepard followed her lead and shut his eyes. The silence pushed him into sleep, leaving him on his own in a land where anything could happen.
  Gepard sat in a field, drenched in blood. Whose blood, he didn’t know. Dead bodies lay around him, also drenched in blood, and he held his sword, ready to fight. He stood up, blood falling to the ground with a loud splash. In his left hand he summoned a flame, bright and big, and let it dance around his palm, flicker and roar and get bigger. He knew something was coming. He turned round to face a dark creature. It looked like a dog, except twenty times bigger. It had slimy, black skin and a massive head that had its upper lip curled in, revealing sharp, glistening white teeth which were dripping with saliva. The long tentacles it had for ears seem-ed to be feeling around in the air, maybe for a sign of disturbance. Its small, beady, white eyes searched as far as they could, which was about four inches in each direction—they were just too small to see a long way.
  Gepard raised his sword, pointing it straight at the beast’s mouth, where he could stab it if the beats were to suddenly attack. But he felt that it wouldn’t, he felt that the beast wasn’t even aware he was there, but if it did it didn’t make any acknow-ledgement of his presence. Then it ran, its massive, heavy legs crushing welts into the ground as it did. The beats it made rushed Gepard’s ears so much he had to cover them with his hands.
  He shut his eyes as the sound grew louder, before opening them rapidly when he realized that the beast would have been gone by now. The beats weren’t coming from the beast, they were coming from behind him. He turned, slowly, dropping his hands to his sides. What stood behind him was horrifying. It stood high above him, before bending down and…

Gepard rose from the couch fast, the blanket slipping from him. Cold sweat rained upon his body. His breathing was heavy as he remembered the dream… but he couldn’t remember what the thing at the end was. Had it been a person? Another monster? Was the dream trying to tell him something?
  Gepard spun round fast when he heard a noise behind him, like shallow breaths, only to be met by a fist to the face. He instantly felt blood rush around his mouth, and his eyes slightly water. He spat the blood out onto the carpet before meeting the grey eyes of a hooded man.
  The man was in a fight stance, right knee facing forward, back foot at a ninety-degree angle, his arms ready to block and punch. His left leg rushed forward but Gepard lunged to the left, ducking under the kick and grabbing the leg. He twisted as he pulled and the man toppled to the floor. Gepard twisted the leg again and the man flipped over onto his stomach, before his hands were pulled behind him.
  “Who are you?” Gepard questioned him.
  “I am no vun,” the man said, a strong Russian accent lacing his words.
  “Listen, if you don’t tell me then you’ll get some serious hurt.” Gepard summoned a flame in one hand as he kept the man pinned down with he foot. He bent down and shoved his hand an inch away from the man’s face.
  “Now, who are you?” Gepard reapeated.
  The man had begun to sweat. Drops fell to the floor, and the man hesitated for a moment before speaking.
  “I am Hickron Votla.” Hickron Wotla… why was that name so familiar to Gepard?
  A flash of memory was coming to Gepard and his foot loosened on Hickron’s stomach. Bad mistake. Hickron took the opportunity and rolled over, before grabbing Gepard’s legs and pushing them backwards, over his own legs. He quickly jumped up and took something from inside his leather jacket. Gepard didn’t have time to see what it was because as soon as it touched him he fell unconscious.

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