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  1. Chapter 1
    The Season Begins

    Night descended upon the sleepy village, its cold embrace extinguishing all of the early summer warmth from the atmosphere. The street lamps began to flicker to life, warning off the night’s perpetual darkness; pale pools of yellow drenching the pavements surface. The people of the village began to react to the night’s arrival: one by one, they shut their curtains and turned on their lights. The village was now empty, not a whisper breathed through the air, not a movement disturbed the tranquil setting…

    Slowly a shadowy figure slipped out of the darkness. It appeared to cautiously survey the area, looking for any signs of life. Satisfied it was alone; it began to advance silently through the village. The figure did not waver from its path, always walking in a straight line. It was clear it knew where it was going, and that it would not be halted by anyone or anything that got in its way. The body passed under a street lamp, its form revealed for a short moment. Yet, nothing could be gleaned from the quick unveiling; for the body was draped in a black hooded cloak, concealing its identity.

    A few moments later and the figure had reached its destination: a small detached house on the far side of the village. It stopped at the front door, the wooden barrier the only obstacle preventing the body from entering the property. The figure looked up at the building, its face consumed by darkness. Only a faint flickering glow emitted from a second floor window of the house, unlike the other houses; whose harsh artificial lights radiated from behind their curtains. The body produced a hand from underneath its cloak and reached for the door. Surprisingly, after a gentle push, the door gradually swayed inwards with a soft creak. The figure glided inside the building without hesitation and closed the door behind it.

    The house was dark and still. The body’s breathing began to quicken, the thumping of its heart beat filled its ears. The silence was deafening. The darkness overwhelming.

    The body looked up at the flight of stairs leading to the second floor; the soft glow of light illuminating the top of the staircase. But, before it ventured to the second floor the figure passed through the adjacent door leading to what seem like the shadowy outlines of a kitchen. It floated through the room quickly, checking for anything living, while being careful not to make any indication that it was in the house. The figure then advanced through another door, this time leading into a deserted living room. The figure was about to depart from the room when it detected something. It stopped in the middle of the area, petrified. A soft tiptoe sound could be heard from inside the kitchen. It started to get louder. The door of the living room creaked open slowly. The steps echo filled the room. It was gradually gaining upon the figures position. Then, they stopped. The body’s heart was beating through its chest. Sweat streamed from under its hood. It inhaled deeply. The figure spun round in one fast, liquid motion and pulled out something sharp from under its cloak. Nothing. The body looked around frantically in all directions anticipating an attack. But, nothing. It breathed a sigh of relief, mopping its brow from under the hood. The body gathered its composure and exited the room, not prepared to wait for whatever made the sound.

    Content that the base of the house was empty, the figure returned to the front of the house. It looked up at the stairs again, preparing itself for the accent. With gentle movements, the body reached the landing quickly; attempting not to make the wood creak with agony. A weak light caressed the floor, getting stronger the further it travelled to the far end of the landing. The figure followed the light and stopped at the slightly ajar door in which the light was pouring from. It took a deep breath. With a shaking hand, the body gasped the doorknob.
    “You may enter,” commanded a confident voice. The figure jumped back in surprise. It clearly was not expecting the invitation. “Do I have to ask you again?” The body did not require another request, and passed through the door.
    The heat and light of candles bombarded the body as it entered the room. It took a while for its eyes to adjust from the darkness it had left behind.
    “So, the season has arrived again?” The voice was produced from a woman sitting cross legged in the middle of the room with her back to the door, surrounded by a circle of candles. Her long black hair flowed down her back like a stream down a river. She wore what appeared to be red robes, with a white sash tied around her waist. Her eyes were closed, as if she was meditating.
    “My! How quick have the last ten years flown!” she said to herself. “I knew that you would be coming for me tonight, hence why the door was left unlocked. No use destroying my house is there? After all, it cost enough!”
    “You know I have to kill you, don’t you?” stuttered the newly revealed male.
    “Well you didn’t come here to play a game of chess did you?” jested the woman in a sarcastic tone. The male moved away from the door way, and carefully made his way around the circle of candles to face his target.
    “Let me guess… About twelve I would say?”
    “I’m fourteen!” growled the boy.
    “Ah! I apologise, guessing age was never my strong suit. Now if you would be so kind, I’d rather see the face of my supposed maker.”
    With her request the boy lifted the hood of his cloak. His face was pale and sickly, maybe from illness, but most likely from fear. His skin was dabbled in a few spots, reflecting his teenage youth. The most striking feature though was his eyes- dark and soulless like two black marbles; it was as if all the life in his being had been drained.
    The woman opened her eyes in response, and the two met and were enthralled by each other’s stare. Unlike the boy’s, the woman had dark brown eyes, burning almost as intensely as the candles that enclosed her.
    “You don’t have to do this,” the woman argued.
    “But I have to. Once I have killed you my initiation will be complete. Then I can go out into the world and hunt your kind to extinction! ”
    “By killing me you will only be harming the planet-“
    “By killing you I will be saving our planet!” interrupted the boy.
    The woman shook her head slowly, and stood up. “I do not agree with harming children, but if I am to defend our world, then so be it! Arm yourself child. Let us see how good your training has been!”
    The boy drew out two long knives from under his cloak, the metal shimmering in the candles blazing flare.
    “It’s been good enough to kill a wretch like you!” Before the boy finished his sentence he commenced in charging at the woman, his knives directed at her chest. He moved swiftly, which came at the woman’s surprise; for he looked scarcely well enough to walk a few feet. But before the boy could even reach the circle of candles, a dog shaped animal jumped in front of him, preventing access to the woman.
    “Ignis! What time do you call this?” scolded the woman
    “It is called the element of surprise! Do not fret; I have been tracking this pitiful excuse for a hunter ever since he entered the village.” The added voice appeared to come from the direction of the animal!
    “Well you are here now, and I would be very grateful for some assistance.”
    The animal bared it fangs and claws, “My pleasure.” With a vicious growl the animal leapt at the boy, knocking him onto his back. It stood on his chest, attempting to maul the boy’s throat. Again, the pale faced youth surprised his targets with his speed, and rapidly placed his knives in front of his throat in defence. The animal only managed to succeed in gnawing on the metal weapons. The two struggled on the floor, giving the boy the chance to identify the creature. Its slender shape, bushy tail and orange fur gave the indication that the doggish shaped animal was indeed a fox!
    Eventually the fox released its clamp upon the knives and jumped into the circle of candles, landing next to the woman.
    “My turn I think.” The woman closed her eyes and extended one of her arms, her fingers outstretched. The candle in front of her appeared to respond to her action. The flame began to flicker. All of a sudden, the fire started to move! Like a serpent, it slithered off the candle wick and floated towards the woman. It reached her fingers and slipped onto her hand, spiralling up her arm, there it stopped and seemed to rest. She opened her eyes, and a sly smile stretched across her lips. The woman thrust her arm in the direction of the boy. The inferno flew off her body and smashed into the attacker. He catapulted across the room, and landed against the far wall.
    “Is that all you got? To be honest, I expected more,” the woman jeered.
    “Oh there is more!” The voice came from behind the woman! She turned around; the boy was standing just outside circle of candles, uninjured! An expression of fear spread across her face.
    “I didn’t expect you to fool for a trick like that!” the boy smirked.
    The woman looked back at where the boy had supposedly landed. To her dismay she had only managed to scorch the wall with her assault.
    “I think I underestimated you, to learn a skill at such a young age should be applauded! But be sure that I will not fall for it again!” The woman closed her eyes again and inhaled. She exhaled heavily and as she did the flames grew to the height of the ceiling. She drove her arms towards the ground. All at once, flames were discharged in every direction around the room; the once tranquil house now rampant with the sound of fire ripping through the atmosphere, the air shimmering with the intensity of the heat. The boy ran around the circle, contorting his body to evade the streams of fire. But he wasn’t fast enough this time. A surge of heat rippled through his body, his whole being undulating with pain. A torrent of fire had crashed into his back causing him to plummet to the ground, where he lay convulsing with heated agony. This time she was certain it was boy she had struck. The woman strode over to the child, the flames now rotating around the two like a blazing cage. She knelt down on one knee and whispered into his ear, “I’m sorry I had to do this.” The boy looked up into the woman’s burning eyes, and began to laugh.
    “You needn’t be sorry!” In one fluid motion the boy pushed himself up and threw one of his knives in the direction of the fox. The woman gasped, realising her puerile mistake. The knife slid through the fox’s flesh with incredible ease; with a force so strong that it knocked the animal back, pinning it to the wall. The corpse hung motionless, blood oozing to the floor. The spiral of flames surrounding the woman and boy dissipated out of existence. The woman collapsed to her knees, clutching her throat, gasping for air. The boy knelt down and whispered into the woman’s ear, “Is that all you got? To be honest, I expected more!” The woman’s eyes widened. Her face drained of all colour. The boy stood back as the woman dropped to the floor with a deathly thud. A knife protruded out of her chest; blood beginning to spread across her red robes.

    The boy stood shaking over the corpse. He let out a terrible laugh which reverberated throughout the house. He had completed his task. He was now one of them…

    The boy knelt over to the body and dragged out his knife, wiping clean on his cloak. He repeated the action with the fox, the animal’s body dropping to the floor, landing in its own pool of blood. He went to leave the room, but before he made his exit, the boy turned to admire his success. Amber liquid saturated to floor, the stench of blood clogging the air. The walls and roof were charred, and two corpses lay silently upon the ground. With a beaming grin, the boy replaced his hood and left the yet again dark and still house.