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Red as Coals, Black as Night Chapter 1
Josalins (Joe-zuh-linz) left the town swiftly, using small side alleys that were known only to a few of the residents. Once he exited the town and reached the farmers’ fields, he broke into a run, running two times faster than a healthy human. He soon left cultivated land behind, entering a small forest near the town’s north-eastern border.
With a good amount of time on his hands, Josalins was forced to contemplate certain things. He ran over his encounter with the girl, who had clearly had the ability to move things without touching them. He was lucky that was one of the abilities he could counter. He also thought about the heavy feeling in his stomach that he felt after killing the girl, that he always felt after killing the gifted girls. He couldn’t discuss it with anyone else, for the others would view it as a sign of weakness. Some of them already made fun of his name, or his family’s name, Lins, because they thought it sounded feminine. But his name was structured just like any other Shanese’s (Sha-nayz), with his first name, Jose (Joes), and his family name, Lins, put together. His good friends didn’t tease him, however, and they called him by his first name, Jose. And less and less who were not his friends were teasing him, as he grew older and more powerful.
But as his mind traveled back to the girl, he wondered why he was always so merciful with his killings, and why he always felt bad afterward. Many of his kind liked to torture the girls before they killed them. Others would play with them for days before actually revealing themselves. But he preferred to just make a quick death, so the girls didn’t feel too much pain or fear. He would have liked to do the same with this girl, but she spotted him, an incredibly rare occurrence, and she ran. He’d had no choice but to chase her, prolonging her fear.
What was the explanation for these feelings, though? He was almost positive none of the other Shanese felt them. They weren’t made that way.
He was out of the forest, and was now running across a long plain, bare of most vegetation. He hardly noticed his surroundings. Like a wandering snake, his mind twisted to this new train of thought.
There was a legend of how the Gifted Ones (the girls with special powers) and the Shanese were created. No one knew for sure if it was true, not even the oldest of the Shanese. But it was very intriguing. It went like this:
More than four thousand years ago, in a young land, lived a woman. And she was wonderful. She was beautiful, intelligent, and kind. She helped everyone she could. She traveled through her land, teaching those less fortunate than her how to read and write. She was strong, and assisted others with physical labor. And she awed all those who saw her, for her beauty was profound. She greatly impressed the goddess Anaia (Uh-nie-uh), goddess of light, warmth, love, kindness, and all that was good. Since Anaia expended much strength trying to keep Shano (Sha-noe), god of dark and evil, at bay, she decided she could use a human vessel to make things good down on earth. So she poured the powers of the gods into this human. There were thousands of powers, including the ability to move instantly from one place to another, the power to read minds, the power to fly, and many, many, more. A normal human body couldn’t take it. So her body was changed, though the legends weren’t that specific as to what the changes were.
This didn’t change her personality. She continued to be gentle and loving, and she continued to assist others. Now she could just do a lot more. And she would never die of age. She could be killed, but who could kill her?
The god Shano was furious. This creature unbalanced the precarious scales of good and evil, tilting them in good’s favor. Anaia’s favor. So he decided to balance the scales.
Searching for a way to change things, Shano saw a group of bandits who had just slaughtered a village laughing around a campfire. Enlightenment struck.
Shano looked within himself, and gathered all the evil in the world, which was all a part of him, and made a large mass of it. Then, he separated the mass into five parts, and molded them roughly into the shape of human beings, with a few differences. For one thing, they could each cancel some of the gifts the woman possessed. Combined, they accounted for all the powers. Also, they were nine feet tall, and their skin and hearts were pure black, pure shadows, just like their master.
But there was a problem. They were so purely evil and dark, that if they ventured into light, Anaia’s domain, they would die. They could not bear the warmth. So Shano reached down to the fire the bandits sat around, and suddenly the fire flared to a height man could not make it go. And Shano bent down and plucked the ten brightest coals from the fire. These he made his creations’ eyes. Now they could be in sunlight, for they had brightness in them, while still being just as dark.
Shano named his creations the Shanese, and sent them out to do their bidding. To kill the perfect woman. The gifted woman. Anaia’s vessel.
They scoured the world looking for her, and, inevitably, she realized she was being searched for. She became cautious, and clever. She frustrated them again and again.
She had been running from them for years when one night she met a man. He was the only one on the earth with as pure a heart as she. They fell in love.
Ultimately, he proved her undoing. So enamored was she that she became careless. Needless to say, the Shanese caught her. One she could have faced, or two, or three. Maybe even four. But with all five of them combined, she had no powers. They killed her.
However, she had already had children with the man. While the boys were normal, albeit very good-hearted kids, the girls each had many of their mother’s powers. When they had children, their female descendents had powers as well. And so on, and so on. Now, more than four thousand years later, there were thousands of girls with powers, although most had only one power.
As for the Shanese, Shano found the cruelest, strongest women there were, and the Shanese mated with these. They, too, had children with some of their capabilities. Now, most Shanese can only cancel a few of the thousands of powers there are. But, while the woman’s children did not inherit her longevity, each Shanese lives for approximately two hundred years unless killed.
Over the four millennia, the Shanese continued to hunt the children of the woman (as she was referred to in most writings and stories). Not all Shanese believed in the story, but all knew that their purpose was to kill the gifted ones.
The leader of the Shanese had always been the one with the purest blood, the one with the fewest generations going back to the original Shanese. At the moment, the leader was Shalamar, Shal from the house of Mar, who was only twenty one generations from the beginning. Jose followed him, and respected him. He obeyed him as any subject should obey his ruler. Jose himself was actually fairly close to the throne, being only twenty four generations from the beginning. But he did not desire to rule.
Besides, whatever these feelings were that he felt when he killed, they would probably be multiplied a hundredfold if he was responsible for sending thousands of Shanese out to murder girls. Also, even if he had been, at the moment, the Shanese with the least generations, they would never accept him as king. At the age of forty, he was far too young to be leading this powerful race. Forty was about the human equivalent of eighteen. Much too young.
Though many Shanese claimed not to believe in the legend, there were some supporting facts. For instance, if the dark god Shano didn’t make them, who did? How else could such an odd race have come into existence? Also, all Shanese felt uncomfortable in sunlight, though they didn’t die. But, if the legend were to be believed, that was because of their bright red eyes.
However, whether or not a particular Shanese believed in the legend of their creation, all gave offerings to the god of darkness, Shano, and, before they set out to hunt for Gifted Ones, prayed to him for a good kill.