My earliest memories are hazy. There was water and wetness but it wasn't until I met Asche that my things become clearer for me. She found me, on a beach, near death. Like a little pet, she took me home and kept me. Like sisters, we grew up together.
It took years for me to finally learn that I was not Sivryan like Asche and our parents. She is part cat and I thought I was just part fish but that innocent thought was changed by careful instruction and tutelage. I am Altarin. Not just part fish but an entirely different species from Sivryan. It made sense. Sivryans have only one or two traits of the animals that are part of them. I had no such limitations. I essentially am a fish in human form. Fins, scales when wet…everything.
I wasn't sad when I learned I was Altarin. I was actually proud of my uniqueness, but I still didn't know who my parents were and to what sea I belonged. I figured that I would be able to find that knowledge out in time. Now, I would need to complete Death's request in order to find out.
My death was not anything spectacular. It was a failure, actually. In our youth, Asche and I had befriended Asura and Kai. Like me, Asche took them home with us and we became a family. A family that I would protect with my life.
The Day started like any other, bright and cheerful. Asche, Coran and I left the house on an errand or two. Asura stayed home with one of her many little projects. We weren't gone very long and when we returned, something wasn't right. Asura was missing. Kai took off immediately, tracking a strange trail. Asche and I followed, flanking him to better search the area. Through the forest and over hills we searched. Topping a second rise, we looked into the valley below. What we saw made my blood run cold. Asura, bound by chains to a black obelisk, struggled to get free. A man in black robes postured before her, speaking in a tainted language. We reacted with all our speed but it wasn't fast enough. We had barely begun to move when a knife-blade flashed in the waning light, slicing through Asura's throat. Kai lost all control. He attacked the man who only smiled as he repelled it. I tried to run around him to make it to Asura. Surely there was something I could do for her. She couldn't die. Not here. It wouldn't be fair.
Kai engaged the man again but it was in vain. The fiend blasted a hole right through Kai's chest with magic and casually reached out to me as I came abreast of him. I don't know what he did but I did make it one more step. I was sucked into darkness.
Where am I? I can't see anything. I can't feel anything. I can't speak. What?
Panic pulses through my heart, making it race. It creeps its way through my mind but I squelch it. I focus on calming the irrational fear like I had been taught. It would dull my senses if left unchecked.
Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Now, open my eyes.
The darkness around me began to fade. I found myself standing, a stone hall coming into focus around me. Before me, a man. Eyes of piercing blue gazed down at me and then moved left as as if he scanned something. I looked where he did.
I gasped in surprise. I was not alone. Asche stood beside me with Asura and Kai. Others stood behind them. We were not a large group but it was a relief not to be alone.
"I am Death."
My gaze shifted back to the man. He was intimidating and I could easily believe he was who he said he was.
He continued to speak, something about all being equal and naked, which I realized I now was. The nakedness didn't bother me much. I had fins to cover those parts that most races' senses of modesty dictated should be covered in public. All I needed now was some water and I would be quite at home.
Death's sudden question demanded my attention. He wanted to know if we would agree to his offer, retrieve an item for him in exchange for a second chance at life. Of course! Who wouldn't want that chance? A little adventure wouldn't hurt either. Besides, if Asche was going to go, so would I. Who knows what sort of trouble she'd get herself into if I wasn't there to help get her out?
Agreement was apparently unanimous as we were all suddenly whisked away into the darkness. My sense of feeling returned first followed closely by sight and sound. We had been dropped into the shallows by a beach. Water! Warm and refreshing, I dropped to my knees and let a wave crash over my head. Asche! I jumped up and searched for her. There, not far from me. She stood taut and practically hissing as the water swirled around her hips. She was drenched. I took pity on her and waded over. Before she even knew what was happening, I grabbed her and tossed her onto the dry sand of the beach and went back to swimming. I assumed she landed on her feet. She usually does.
The others trickled out of the water one by one, intent on exploring where we were. I decided to stick to the water to see what I could find around the shore. My carefree mood soon fizzled into a sober alertness. There were no fish. No other signs of life in the water which is impossible. It's the source of ALL life. How could there be NO life? I swam a little farther but slowed to almost a stop. There was something, a subtle sense that was warning me. Danger. But from where? I couldn't see anything in any direction around me. I shook my head and back paddled. Not worth finding out. I flipped around and sped back to shore. These waters were unfriendly. I'd feel better taking my chances on shore with the rest.
Stepping out of the water, Asche accosted me. She was distraught. The giant in our group was tearing off tree branches to try to make himself some clothes. I comforted her Sivryan sense of life preservation as best I could as I highly doubted I could stop him from continuing if he wanted. He'd most likely swat me out of the way like a fly. Luckily Kai came back just then with a distraction, news that there was a ladder and a cave. We all followed him and climbed up. There were very few items in the cave entrance. I didn't have any particular use for an old tent but the big guy suggested we could make clothes out of it. I shrugged off the suggestion, leaving it and my portion of the material for someone else who would feel more comfortable covered. I was fine. Kai was anxious to explore farther so I trailed after him. The others did too.
A brief, dark hallway lead to a closed door. Curiously, we opened it and peered in. Nothing. Pitch black. Even my natural low-light vision couldn't see anything. Thank Jolene Kai could and did produce a ball of light. We would have walked right off a ledge without it. Literally. There was a gaping hole in the middle of the room. The only way around were small ledges to the right and left of the door. Kai chose to go left first. I'm glad it wasn't me because he found a decomposing body. Poor guy. Kai, not the body. I don't know if he'd ever seen a dead body before he and Asura came to live with us but I had learned over the last five years that he was a very sheltered young man and a part of me wanted to protect that cute little innocence of his. He may have seen more bodies then I had thought because this one didn't faze him. Not one bit. He probably didn't even bat an eye. He just came back to us and then headed right. The kid baffles me at times.
The goblin girl dashed into the room next, probably in a hurry to find loot. I hear goblins like that sort of thing. I guess I'd find out first hand if it was true. She apparently decided that Kai was in her way because she went left. I could barely see her since Kai's light was to the right but it looked like she triggered something in the floor that sent spikes shooting out of the wall. The spikes retracted after a moment. Must have been how our friend on the floor had died. I didn't see what the goblin did next to make it to the other side because I was up next. Being spiked didn't appeal to me so I followed Kai to the right.
There was a barrel in the corner of the ledge before the ledge turned left, leading us to the door on the other side. I wanted to open it but when I reached for it, there was a hiss and a shudder above me. I hesitated. I hesitated a long time. Asche came up behind me and wanted to help me move the barrel out from under whatever the darkness above concealed. I hesitated long enough that the human man came upon us. He didn't wait for us as he opened the barrel and removed it's items. I was a little miffed but I couldn't fault him. I was the one who…hesitated. I shrugged and moved down the ledge to the left and onto the other side. I didn't get the chance to look at the intricate door puzzle because Kai and a few of the others were already trying to figure it out. I ended up dozing a little as I sat off to the side, out of the way. I hoped things would get a little more interesting on the other side of that door.