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The Hidden Truth (Episode 1)
A young shadow stalker is destined to enslave the people of the Serpent Isles, and the Galvadi Empire want this child of prophecy dead. Auren Trasks perfectly normal life is disrupted when the Galvadi invade, and she learns a startling secret about her past. A secret that will change her life forever.
The Delohi-Saqu's Fate (Episode 2)
Auren is being targeted by the Council of Elders, and the only one who could put an end to their corruption is her father. But leaving the Dark Isle would turn Kado against her.
Shadows' Betrayal (Episode 3)
After seeing the monster she will become, Auren swears not to leave the Dark Isle. Despite that, the elders are conspiring against her. To escape their scheming, she and Kado decide to explore the Dark Isle. But worse things await them in the forests.
Forbidden Love (Episode 4)
Kado and Auren survive a deadly storm, but when Auren is forbidden from pursuing love with another young shadow stalker, will it be enough to drive a wedge between her and her foster father?
Destiny Reconciled Part 1 (Episode 5)
Auren and Kado accept that they may not be able to avoid her leaving the Dark Isle. Now they have to prepare for that eventuality. Will the training be more than Auren can handle?
Destiny Reconciled Part 2 (Episode 6)
Cathnor has been arrested and is facing a death sentence. The Dark Isle is out of control, and Kado is the only one who can help his people. So he prepares Auren for the possibility that she may have to leave the Dark Isle without him and face her destiny alone, but can she leave him and do what must be done?
Shadow Stalker Part 2 (Episodes 7 - 12) is also available in many online retail outlets!
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An excerpt from Shadow Stalker: The Hidden Truth (Episode 1)
Reality is an illusion we create to convince ourselves nothing will ever change. I have learned change happens regardless of the reality we create. Sometimes it’s so subtle we don’t notice it, but other times it’s so dramatic it alters our lives in a very profound way. One thing is for sure, once it sets into motion, we can’t stop it.
For me, it began with a camping trip. My friends and I had been planning it since the month before our graduation. This trip was to be our first autonomous venture into the world as fledgling adults. After spending my entire childhood in a proverbial cage, I longed for freedom. Well, okay, my life wasn't that bad. My foster father, Kado, just kept me busy doing things I believed to be unimportant, like studying maps of the islands and learning combat fighting. I didn't have time for much of a social life. It was important to him, though, so I tried not to complain—too much.
The fact that I was eighteen wasn't enough to warrant independence in Kado’s opinion. He felt I still had a lot more to learn before I could call myself an adult. It was doubtful he would believe I'd be responsible enough to travel to another island on my own, even for a few days. I had been trying to think of a way to convince him all that week to let me go on this camping trip, but I couldn't come up with anything. Worse, his mood had been gradually declining throughout the week, which decreased my chances for a positive outcome. I was out of time, though. My friends were leaving early the following morning, so I was lying on my bed, committing my spiel to memory.
"Auren, come down here, please."
Ready or not, this was it. "Coming."
I found him where he spent most of his spare time, sitting in the study reading in his favorite chair. Piles of books lined the walls making the room appear smaller than it was. There was only enough room for a couple of armchairs and a small table for furniture. How he managed such organization amongst this clutter was beyond me. I wasn’t even able to keep my room tidy, and I didn’t have nearly as much stuff as he did. Despite his ability for order and cleanliness, the room still reeked of that musty old book smell. Not even air freshener had any hope of defeating that odor; trust me, I'd tried.
I strode into the room and sat in the chair across from him. Gazing at him, it was easy to see how he could pass for my father even though we were unrelated. We both had the same dark hair, green eyes and olive skin that made us look like we belonged in a much warmer climate. The only real difference was his face was long and angular, while mine was small and round. It made my head seem disproportionate to the rest of my body, but when Kado told me I looked like my mom, it eased my self-consciousness. I loved looking into the mirror and pretending it was my mother looking back at me.
"Have you finished packing?" Kado asked without looking up from his book.
Kado lowered the book, and his eyes bore into mine. That could have sounded more confident. I had packed, but it was for the camping trip with my friends, and not for wherever Kado was planning to take me. We typically went camping every summer, though I had the impression it wasn't the plan for this trip when he told me to bring anything that had value to me. Part of me wondered if he was intending on coming back.
"Kado, my friends and I planned a camping trip to celebrate our graduation, and I'd really like to go."
His eyes narrowed. "Where?"
Somehow my request didn't seem to surprise him, so I felt my first spark of hope. "Luten Isle."
"Why?" I asked, my hope fading.
"Auren, I have told you we are leaving Appolia in the morning."
Appolia was the largest island in the north, and capital of the Coalition. It also happened to be the coldest place on the planet. Why Kado had chosen to live here I would never understand.
"Can't we leave next week, so I can at least spend time with my friends?"
"No," he said, and went back to his book. His subtle dismissal was his way of telling me the conversation was over, but he seemed to be considering letting me go for a moment. His final decision had nothing to do with the trip he had planned.
"What's wrong with Luten Isle?" I asked, hoping I wasn't pushing my luck too far. I was always told that ‘no’ was not an invitation for further argument, and making him angry would be counterproductive to my cause.
Kado set his book down on the small table between the two chairs, then sat forward with his forearms resting on his knees. "You know very well it's too close to the Galvadi border."
"So? You took me there last year. What difference does it make?"
"The difference is, I won't be there."
I would have told him to come with us, but that would have defeated the whole purpose of the trip, which was to get away from parental figures. I didn't think my friends, Deakan and Jade, would want him along anyway. Kado intimidated them. Then again, he intimidated most people. It could have been his size. He dwarfed most tall men, and while sitting he was taller than I was when standing. Although, it could have also been the fact that he always appeared to be in a bad mood.
"Why don't you trust me?" I asked under my breath.
Kado sighed and rubbed his forehead as though soothing a headache. "It's not a matter of trust, Auren."
"It's not safe for you there."
“I'm not helpless,” I said, groaning. He had been training me for as long as I could remember to protect myself, so it seemed to me a pretty lame excuse.
"I know you're not, but it's my duty to protect you, and I can't do that if you're over a hundred kilometers away."
There was something going on he wasn’t telling me. Granted, he was normally overprotective, but something else was motivating his decision. I wished he would just tell me what it was. "What do you need to protect me from?"
"You'll understand soon enough," Kado said. "Go pack."
I started to say something else, but my mind abruptly went blank, and I lost interest in the conversation. Jade would be waiting for my call anyway. I rang her from my bedroom.
"He said no, didn't he?" Jade asked after hearing my voice.
I snorted. "How'd you guess?"
"How brave are you feeling at the moment?"
I narrowed my eyes even though she couldn't see me. She was scheming, which meant I would, no doubt, end up in trouble. "Why?"
"Can Kado hear you?"
"Okay, well that explains your short answers. What if we were to come and get you tonight? Do you think you could sneak out?"
I took a moment before answering, so I would be able to focus on keeping the excitement out of my voice. "It's possible."
"Sure." Kado was almost always asleep by then, so that might work.
"Okay, see ya then."
"Have fun on the camping trip," I said, sounding as forlorn as possible just in case Kado was listening.
Jade giggled as she disconnected on her end. All I had to do now was to come up with a way to sneak out. He would hear me if I tried to go through the house. I could move like a ghost in more ideal conditions, but nothing would stop the creaking and groaning of the old floorboards. Although, thanks to Kado's training, leaving through the second story window in my bedroom shouldn't be too difficult. Finally, it was proving useful for something.
That night I laid awake in bed waiting for Kado to go to sleep. I left the window open, even though it was a chilly night, so I wouldn't have to risk having it squeak and wake Kado. The clock ticking in the hallway was a constant reminder of the passing of time. I was afraid he might stay up the entire night, until I heard his light padding as he came up the stairs. I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep in case he checked on me. His footsteps stopped outside my door. At first he did nothing, so I thought he would head to bed, but then the door opened. The light that spilled into my room gleamed through my eyelids, tempting me to open them to see what he was doing. Then a floorboard creaked near my bed, reminding me I was supposed to be fooling him into believing I was asleep.
I struggled to keep my breathing even. The shadow hovering over me and blocking the light coming in from the hallway made me suspect Kado stood right next to me. The musky scent of his aftershave confirmed that fact. I flinched when his hand rested on my shoulder. I wasn't expecting the touch.
"Nice try, Auren."
I opened my eyes and tried to respond, but my voice wouldn't work. I expected Kado to be angry, but he looked amused. After a moment, his face faded and everything went dark. It seemed like seconds had passed when I heard something hitting my window. I forced my eyes open, but I was so groggy it took me a moment to be able to keep them from closing again. Where was Kado? My room was dark, and the house was quiet. He must have gone to bed, but I didn't remember him leaving.
I heard another clink from the window. I sat up, ignoring the chill as I walked over to see what was making the noise. Kado must have closed it, but he was already aware I was up to something, so I would need to be extremely quiet. I inched the window open as slowly as possible, and miraculously succeeded in not making a sound. Sighing in relief, I poked my head outside just in time to have something hard hit my forehead.
"Ow, damn it. Watch it!" I cursed wordlessly at my slip up, and listened to make sure I didn't wake Kado. The house remained silent, so I tossed my backpack out the window into Deakan's waiting arms. I grabbed a hair band off my dresser, so I could tie it back and keep it out of my face. The wind rocked the branch of the tree outside my window, but I watched the pattern of its movement. When I was sure I could make the jump without missing the limb, I climbed onto the window ledge and leapt. My feet landed on the branch, and I managed to keep my balance despite the bouncing. Jade let out a squeak. I would have rolled my eyes if I wasn't trying to focus on getting to the ground in one piece. When it stopped shaking, I checked to see if anyone was below me and began my final swing toward the ground.
Deakan held up a hand in warning. "Wait, there's a—"
It was too late. I had already let go of the branch. I braced for impact against the hard ground, but instead the ground gave way and my feet sank as though I had landed in quicksand.
“Mud puddle," Deakan said.
My shoes sloshed as I stepped out of the slick and onto the hard cement. I sniffed. "Are you sure that's mud?"
Deakan snickered. "It's a good thing you're not a girly-girl."
I punched him in the gut. I didn't think I hit him that hard, but he wrapped his arms around his middle and hunched over, taking a couple of deep breaths.
"Oops, sorry." I covered my mouth with a hand to hide the smirk.
"So violent!" Deakan swung my backpack toward my head, but I caught it before it made contact. Regrettably, I didn't anticipate the momentum of the strap and it smacked my face.
"Shh," I said as I pointed toward Kado's window.
I followed Deakan and Jade as they led the way to his father’s hydrocar. Deakan was tall, but nowhere near as tall as Kado. Still, he quite often used my head for an armrest. Jade looked like a midget next to him, but they had matching blond hair and pale skin. They looked like typical Appolians. He had parked his vehicle down the road in the shadow between the street lamps. It was a good thing, too, because he demanded I change out of my muddy clothing first, and I didn’t need a spotlight for that show.
I pulled out a clean set of track pants before throwing my backpack in the trunk. My shirt was free of mud, so at least I'd be spared having to expose my top half. I didn't have another pair of shoes with me, so I'd have to go barefoot for a while. Deakan stood on the opposite side of the hydrocar facing away from us, while I stood between the opened front and rear doors. Jade held her sleeping bag over the gap, but even with the cover, dressing on the side of the road would be awkward. My only other option was to risk going back into the house, but I didn't want to press my luck. It was a miracle I had made it out of the house without Kado knowing.
Before I took off my pants, I looked up and down the road. The houses were dark, so I hoped it was safe to assume the neighbors were all sleeping. I could imagine the look on Kado's face if he heard from one of them I had exposed myself in public. I sat on the back seat of the hydrocar and removed the muddy shoes, socks and pants, placing them in the laundry bag I brought with me. Goosebumps formed on my legs before I had the chance to cover them with my clean ones, and I was already shivering.
It may have been early summer, but the nights were still cold this far north. In fact, there was still patches of snow on the ground where the larger mounds hadn't quite melted, yet. We were lucky to even have summers. North of us, in the higher elevations, the snow covered the ground all year. That was one of the reasons my friends and I had decided to go to Luten Isle. It was as far south as we could go without crossing the border into the Galvadi Empire, the enemy of the Coalition for all intents and purposes. Luten Isle might still be a bit cool this time of year in the evenings, but at least it was warmer than Appolia, and during the day it might even be warm enough to swim.
I threw my laundry bag into the trunk with my backpack, and then climbed into the back seat of the hydrocar. Deakan and Jade sat up front, which didn't bother me. I'd have plenty of room for stretching out. It was the most comfortable vehicle I had ever been in. A soft leather, with cushions so supple it was like floating on a cloud, covered the seats. I leaned toward the front to ogle the controls on the dashboard, which lit up more brightly than a star filled sky. The outside of the hydrocar was pretty typical, with its boat meets car look, except it had no wheels. The newer models didn’t need them because they employed a new technology that used the planets magnetic field to make the vehicles seem to just float in the air. It was similar to trying to push two magnets with the same polarization toward each other.
"How did you talk your dad into letting you take this?" I asked in wonder. His dad coveted his possessions, and I never imagined he’d let Deakan drive his hydrocar, much less leave Appolia with it.
"I promised to go to the Appolian Institute of Science and Technology. He wants me to go to officer school like my older brother instead of enlisting in the army. Something about there being more prestige as an officer."
"Wow, you? An officer? What happened to being a big time killing machine?"
"I can still be a killing machine."
"Science and technology," Jade pointed out.
"Yeah, you'll probably end up in a lab somewhere."
Deakan tapped a few buttons on a control panel on the steering column and the hydrocar started gliding down the road. It even had auto drive. I was instantly jealous. Why couldn’t Kado buy something like this? His hydrocar was ancient, although in this case it might work in our favor. It had wheels, and he had to switch from land to water mode manually, which made the process of entering and leaving the water much slower. Even if he did follow us, he'd have a hard time keeping up once we left the island.
Deakan turned in his seat so he was facing both Jade and I. "Whatever. Officers have combat training too. So what took you so long, Auren?"
"How long were you waiting for me?"
"About two hours," Jade said.
"Damn, I'm sorry. Kado came into the room, and he knew I was up to something. I must have fallen asleep while waiting for him to leave."
"When's he gonna give you a break? Even my dad thinks he's overbearing, and that's saying something," Deakan said.
"Why don't you just run away from home and start a new life somewhere else?" Jade suggested.
I shrugged. "It’s complicated."
"What’s so complicated?" Deakan asked.
I pulled a lock of my dark hair into my mouth and started chewing. Part of me longed for that kind of freedom, but it felt wrong. Despite Kado's emotional distance and lack of affection, I knew he cared about me. If he didn't, he wouldn't have heeded my father's dying wish to raise me, and he wouldn't be taking the time to teach me all he knows. Kado never told me how my father died, but I was aware that he had given his life so I could live. If I ran away I would be tarnishing my father's memory, and betraying the man who has dedicated himself to raising another man's child. I couldn't bring myself to do that, but I didn’t know how to explain my feelings to my friends.