Robert Longstreet was a Navy Seal, and served two tours. He’d been through hell and back, but was commended by his team for his night time operations. After serving his grueling time, Robert decided to take a lighter load with the military. He wasn’t ready to give up the fight, but he was afraid of becoming a shell, like some of his comrades. So, he became part of the protection team for the American Ambassador to Israel.
When he met the future mother of his kid, he’d already been living in Israel for two years. He’d been drinking in a dark corner of a bar, When she decided to join him. After some idle chat and one too many drinks, he ended up succumbing to the night.
Three or four months passed. Finally, on the darkest day of the year, Robert received a package at his doorstep. Twas a baby in a cradle of shadows, a wonder to behold. He quietly took the child into his home, a feeling of attachment already to the newborn. By some fatherly sense, he knew the child was his. Robert named her Tzilah, which is Hebrew for shadow. She was, after all, his little shadow.
She grew up in Israel, and went to a big American school. She was a mischievous little girl, who loved to learn and read, but not go to an actual learning institution. She slept in class and went home to reread the lesson. Kids called her “shadow” due to her nature of sticking to the shadows and generally avoiding people, unless she was playing a prank.
The art of pranking was one of the many bonds Tzilah shared with her best friend, who also happened to be her father. He was the closest person to her, and he meant the world. His line of work made her nervous, but he always told her not to worry.
On one eventful day, when Tzilah was 7, they’d been walking happily back home when a siren went off. The bomb siren. They ran to the house, hoping to reach the basement. Tzilah turned for one moment, during the run, to see an explosion, feel her father shove her away, see the pressure blow off Roberts legs, and burn his body. Her leg ached, but she didn’t have time to check it. She crawled to her father side, looking him in his dying eyes. Boils from the heat lined his cheeks. “My little shadow…” he muttered, before fading away forever. Here began Tzilah’s PTSD. The bomb had landed on their neighbors house, but it had been close enough to have an effect. Medics found her, and took her to the nearest hospital. Her leg had been badly burned, and had shards of shrapnel buried inside. Some shrapnel was also buried throughout her body, but not so seriously the doctors couldn’t take it out. The damage to her leg, however, had no easy fix. So, doctors had to remove it.
Because Robert’s only other living relative had been his mother, Tzilah had to move to the U.S. to live with the grandmother she’d never met. Before she did though, she had some training with her fake leg, so that she could at least walk once she got to the ‘states.
The first thing Tzilah learned about her grandmother was that she was a tough old bastard. The second? She loved her cigars. Tzilah found her nana to be harsh, but also kind and caring, in her own special way. Nana put her to do chores, and learn useful skills like driving and being a savvy shopper. Tzilah began to like her life with grandma. After all, things could’ve been worse.
But Nana had lung cancer. All those cigars did her no good, and no chemotherapy or medication could deny the inevitable. About two years or so into Tzilah’s stay, nana died, and she was left to the foster care.
Tzilah didn’t really connect with her foster family. The mom and dad were okay, but cold and distant. The kids tended to stay away from her, afraid of her frequent sobs while sleeping. One kid in particular, however, wouldn’t stay away, and found torturing Tzilah to be a fascinating hobby. Her name, which would forever be engraved in Tzilah’s mind, was Kala Urich. She was about 11, and a real pain in the ass. She would always make fun of the younger girl’s leg, or lack there of. Then she would tease her looks, lack of friends, and the way she tended to sleep in class. As upset as it made Tzilah, she always restrained herself from fighting back. This, however, is harder to do when you’re having a panic attack.
They’d been in school, and Kala had been onslaughting Tzilah with abuse. “Hey peg leg how’s it going? Where did the real one go, off to find a better home? Ohh let me guess, blown up in war?” The last jab stuck a needle in her side, and Tzilah’s vision became blurry. Scenes of her father’s death replayed in her mind, the sound of the explosion blaring in her ears. She covered them, shutting her eyes. She began to sob. Kala grinned, figuring she’d finally gotten to the younger girl. “Oh, so I guess it did. I suppose your leg was tired of you. I know I would be.” She laughed cruelly. “What a dweeb.” She shoved past Tzilah, which proved to be a fatal mistake. Surprised, confused, and angered by the movement, Tzilah shoved back forcefully, a shadowy shard flying from her hand. It struck Kala in the back, and she began to bleed out profusely. Tzilah stepped back in horror, as the older girl breathed her final raggedy breath.
Tzilah ran from school, unsure what to do. Images of her death played and replayed, the blood dripping from the girls mouth, blood from her back, and red everywhere. She hadn’t meant to kill Kala, but now she was dead. Just another thing to add to her PTSD.
She lasted on the streets for a week before someone found her. Her unusual sleep pattern helped her hide, until a cop found her atop a dumpster, sleeping in broad daylight. She was taken to the police station, where they tried to deal with her situation. After some confusion and hubbub, they set Tzilah free, believing her to have been acting in self defense. The school cameras had caught Kala taunting Tzilah with a knife, and Tzilah retaliating. She knew all of this was false, but how do you say that about video footage? The eyewitnesses agreed with the camera. How was Tzilah to know about a thing called mist?
A killer was still a killer, in the eyes of foster families. The one she had been with before no longer wanted her. All others refused to house a murderer. Finally, after much deliberation, a woman by the name of Jackil took her in. She was about 65 and blind, but seemed to always know where she was going, and looked very juvenescent. In all honesty, Tzilah found her to be creepy.
Jackil pulled Tzilah out of regular school, opting to teach her manually. From 7 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon, Tzilah was to learn and study. From 5:01 till 7, Tzilah was to learn a musical instrument (she went with the cello and the electric bass.) From 7:30 till ten at night, she was to learn a martial arts. Tzilah decided to do Krav Maga, an israeli martial arts she remembers her father did. It was difficult, considering she was missing a leg, but she managed to do well. She ate at 6:30 am, 12pm, and 7pm. This was schedule she followed for two years, no rest, no play. She hardly remembered what the sun looked like. Jackil could afford to do this because she was retired and had a boat load of money.
Finally, Tzilah couldn’t take it anymore. Her life lacked substance, everything was robotic. She began sneaking out at night, going to explore the city in its finest hour. No one really noticed her, but she got to see human life after monotony, and that was all that mattered. After exploring, she’d sneak back into the house at about two in the morning. Because of her constant nightmares and panic attacks, Tzilah, in reality, only got about two hours of sleep. Jackil noticed the subtle differences in her behavior, and began to ride on her harder. Still, the freedom was worth it.
On one of her escapades, she met a boy who called himself Dagger. He was about three years older than she, with dark hair and grey eyes. They struck up a conversation, and became rapid friends. She began meeting him frequently at the arcade, having finally found a real friend. On one of their many meetups, Tzilah had a panic attack. A girl had been in the midst of bullying another girl when the strong image of Kala’s dead body crossed Tzilah’s mind. She began to cry, the smell of blood and guilt enveloping her. The bystanders moved away, obviously thinking she was crazy. Not quite sure as to what she was doing, she began to bend the shadows around her, closing off everything in complete darkness. Suddenly, the boy began telling her stories, to calm her down. He talked a little bit about his life, obviously trying to relax her and distract her. She fell for it, and the shadows disappeared. Feeling she could trust the guy, she began to tell him of her life, and its many inconveniences. Dagger told her she was special, despite the many disturbances of life, and that’s why things went so harshly. He didn’t expand though. Not yet, anyways.
A few days later, he finally worked up the courage and tells her. He explained that she is a demigod, or so that’s what her powers had demonstrated. He explained that he was one too. Dagger tried to speak more on the intricacies, but Tzilah was too incredulous to understand. She ran back home, hoping to never see him again. Deep in her soul though, she knew him to be right.
On her 13th birthday, Dagger was proven to be right. She’d been inside the house, studying whatever assignments Jackil had given, when a giant hellhound crashed through window. Panic started to creep in, but she managed to push back the images. She ran to her room as the hellhound chased after. Jackil made the mistake of standing right in the middle of its path. The thing shredded through her, leaving behind unidentifiable red meat. Tzilah made the mistake of turning to look. Add that to the nightmares at night. She was paralyzed with guilt and horror as the hellhound descended on her. Tzliah was fortunate that Dagger had set up a stake out at her house. He’d known the day would come soon when the monsters came crawling for her. He arrived too late at the scene to save Jackil, however. A man named Red shot the beast down, while the other three figure of the party searched the perimeter. Tzilah now believed Dagger.
Having no where to go, Tzilah journeyed on with the group. They were a band of demigods who enjoyed monster killing and the freedom of roaming. The leader was Red, who was also Dagger’s older brother. They were sons of Acheron. Another of the group was a 17 year old girl named Killer, daughter of Eris. The last two members were 15 year old twins named Terror and Random, sons of Nemesis.
They moved around, mostly to areas of Mississippi and Arkansas. Dagger personally trained Tzilah in the art of combat, giving her a regular celestial sword to fight with. It started out as an impossible task, given her one leg, but he managed to develop the right system of training to help her. The panic attacks were hard to deal with, but somehow, the son of woe managed to sooth Tzilah’s woes. She still regularly got them, but not at such a high intensity, and in a more manageable state. As she gained prowess in her training, the others began to admire her prowess and quick speed, calling her “Shadow” for her shadow like fighting style.
On the road, they encountered two cyclops. They’d been tending a monster chain store when Random walked in for a bag of Twizzlers. Noticing the cashier was extremely large and had a one eye, he ran out the shop to get the group. The cyclops tracked him, bringing along his cyclops brother. Random, Terror, and Killer took a left. Shadow, Dagger, and Red took a right. As the cyclops brother came at the crossroads, Each party surprised their respective monster. Random shot at it from the bushes while Terror sliced at its legs. After a pause, Killer snuck up from behind and jumped it. Using the two swords in hand, Killer decapitated the beast. Dagger took out sword and began a frontal attack on the other beast. Red charged at it with an axe, using his weight and momentum to try and stick it in the cyclops. The thing deflected it easily, then went to smash Red’s head. Shadow leaped in front of the beast and Red, stabbing upwards, severing its hand. The beat roared, and in its distraction, forgot about Dagger. He quickly ended it by stabbing the thing in the gut. Shadow followed up with a stab in the shoulder, for good measure.
The other members were impressed at her handiwork. It seemed martial arts and Dagger’s good teaching had payed off. Finally, Shadow had found a home again.
Everything changed for the group when a pack of Lycanthropes attacked. There was a history between them and the group, but no one cared to explain to Shadow. One day while in the woods, the damned things found them sleeping. Killer had been on watch and called out a warning. The beasts were on her like donkey kong, and Killer became mince meat. The others woke up, and quickly gathered their things. There was no way to defeat them. Outrunning them was near impossible. But they tried. They ran hard, the Lycanthropes at their heels. Shadow began panicking, the PTSD back in full kick. she tripped and fell. Blood filled her vision of their horrors she’d seen. Random tried to help her up, just as she was wanting to leave. She imagined a quiet area of the forest, near the road. Dagger had been training her there before. Quick as a lick, she transported the two of them there. She then fainted.
Shadow woke up to Daggers face. He explained it’d been a three days since the great escape. They’d gotten far enough from the beasts to be safe, but Random had gone back to find Terror. On the way, he’d encountered Dagger, and told him of Shadows location. Red had died trying to buy Dagger time to escape. The whereabouts of Terror and Random were unknown. Shadow then realized they were no longer in the forest. With some shame, Dagger explained he’d carried her into the city. It wasn’t safe to stay around as prey for the Lycanthropes. It was a case of survivorship, and there were priorities. Dagger was still guilty at having abandoned his friends.
After a few days of rest, they journeyed onto Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where an older friend of Red’s lived. He was always out on business trips and working, but had promised Dagger and Red that, should they ever need a place to stay, he would be there. Like many things, Dagger didn’t expand too much on the situation. 14 years old, Shadow's future was up in the air.
The guilt got to Dagger. He decided to try and search for the members, maybe see if they’d survived. Shadow talked him out of a nation wide search. It was only the two of them, against many a monster. Better to do the investigation from Tuscaloosa. Dagger was reluctant, but agreed.
They trained and searched for the missing members. They went to school to deter suspicious glances, trying to keep a low profile. Monsters were always out there. Shadows PTSD ran rampant, but Dagger calmed her and tried to sooth her. He of all people knew her mental pain very well.
Shadow grew some feelings for him, but still kept her distance. It was obvious he was hiding things. His past was clear, yet not so clear, and she wondered why he couldn't trust her with the information. She’d already confessed her life to him, it was his turn.
They encountered another monster as they walked home from school. A harpy, who seemed to have been hiding behind a tree, flew at them. Tzilah, whose weapon was not magical, could not bring it to school. She instead ducked to the ground, with such force her fake leg fell away. Dagger, on the other hand, always carried his pocket watch. He quickly grabbed it, having it turn into a gauntlet. He punched the beast in the face. It squealed and moved back, then flew at them again. This time, Tzilah was a little more prepared. Having remembered the shard that killed Kala, she formed another, sending it through the harpy. More squeals of pain. As the flying ugly recuperated, Dagger calmly turned the gauntlet into a sword, and stabbed the beast. They made quite the team.
A year passed, no sign of the twins. Dagger became more frantic, getting less sleep then Shadow did. He paced like a madman, all day and all night. Shadow couldn't take it. She told him to calm down. They would be found. But he felt guilty. What if they were dead? She didn't really know his past, nor how he and the group came to be. She only knew she cared for him and wanted the best for him. And with that, she kissed him. And so began their romance. He decided to end the search, focusing on their lives there in Tuscaloosa. Dagger still revealed no secrets.
When Shadow was 15, another monster attacked. This time, a telkhine. She and Dagger had been having a date near a lake, a few miles from town. Dagger had been taking a swim when the thing attacked him. He didn't have his pocket watch. Dagger sent waves of pains at the beast, trying to get away. When Shadow saw something was wrong, She grabbed her sword (which she'd brought) and dived into the water, depsite her leglessness. She slashed at the thing, trying to save her boyfriend. Dagger wrapped his arms around the beast, trying to constrain it. She got a good shot in, and managed to get the sword through its side. Dagger was wounded all over, so he used a square of ambrosia to heal up. They had a limited supply, however, so both knew they had to be more careful.
The strangest thing happened when Shadow was about 16. It was the weekend, and the two were resting at home after some training. All of a sudden, two lycanthropes burst in. They had no clue how the damn things had tracked them down, but they'd found them. Dagger placed himself in front of Shadow, attempting to give her an escape route. There was almost no hope for survival. Just then, a figure burst in. He was tall, with scars all over, a maniacal grin on his face. It was Terror. He bashed the first lycanthrope with a celestial bronze club, then stabbed the other with a silver knife. It disintegrated. The left over lycanthrope jumped onto him, almost assuredly mincing him. He still managed to stab it, even after the weight. He said a drowsy hello to the two, then fainted. It was obvious the guy had been through a shitload.
They gave him the second to last ambrosia square, helping him heal up. They were eager to know what news he brought. Dagger, of course, was tripping with shame and guilt. When he awoke, he calmly drank some of their water, then set himself, and his club and knife, onto the couch. They asked him what had happened in the years that had come to pass. He just smiled and said."I'll tell you soon. For now, I'm famished."
Dagger ran out to get some pizza. Shadow sat in uncomfortable silence with the guy. She noticed no sign of Random. When she asked, he simply said "dead." She couldn't help but feel guilty. If she hadn't stopped Dagger, they would've went out to find them. Maybe even save them. She was about to get up to go get herself a drink when he stood, knife in hand. He walked quickly to her, grabbing her by the front of her shirt. She retaliated, grabbing his arm and flipping him over. She gasped in shock, barely muttering a sorry when e grabbed her fake leg and pulled. She hit her head, almost blacking out. He quickly got behind her, grabbing her bloody her, pulling her head back to expose her neck. Terror slowly and painfully slid the knife back and forth across her throat, going through vocal cords like swiss cheese. Dagger ran into the room, having felt her pain. He tackled the bigger guy, not allowing him to slice through Shadow's neck.
"Why?!" Dagger yelled as he wrestled with the boy. "You left us! You abandoned us!" Terror spit back. "I cannot forgive! Random is dead because of you!" He managed to stab Dagger. "I just want you to suffer as I have. Watch as the girls throat bleeds out as your gut does too. My personal revenge." He gave a bloody smile as Dagger punched him hard. He grappled the knife out of his old friend's hand, shoving it into his heart. "You will die," Terror craoked. Dagger silenced him with a final blow to the face.
Dagger rushed to Shadow's side. He gingerly pulled out the last ambrosia square, placing it in her mouth. "Chew. Eat. You must live." Shadow was almost gone. She did, however, see the wound on his stomach bleeding. She touched it. He told her not to worry about him, he would be fine. It was obvious he would not. His breathing became shallow, the knife having pierced his lungs. "I'm sorry..I should've taken better care of you...I love you..There is so much I haven't said... I could've protected you..." Tears ran down his face. "I was too stubborn in my belief, to take you to camp.... if all my brother had told me was true...I just wanted to protect you." He looked deeply in her eyes. "You must go. To this camp. For me. Please. I know you don't understand now, but you will." He gently kissed her head. "I love you...."
She woke up to a torn apartment. Blood stained the carpet. Terror's body was still there, but it seemed Dagger had dragged himself away, to die alone in another place. She tried to call his name,call for help, but found that she could say nothing. Her throat was healed, no scars to be shown, but yet she could not speak. It would stay this way.
There was a crumpled piece of paper in her left hand. It held the directions to the camp he had takled about. In her left hand, she held Dagger's pocket watch. His final gift.
She traveled to camp, getting there with a problem. She missed Dagger.