Prologue: Deadly Games

Candles sporting ominous, azure flames flickered across an aged, elegant hall from their intricately carved holders. Unsettled dust floated everywhere, making ghostly silhouettes as dark candlelight mixed in along the large pillars scattered across the place. Nocturnal piano music that seemingly seeped out of its walls filled the room with unearthly sensations of sadness.

An emerald-haired huntress of her early twenties rested her back against the damp side of a stone pillar. Her doll-like face, dripping with sweat, was painted bright red by skin-deep wounds that lined her cheeks; Her blue eyes, though tired, gave a sweet, sharp radiance that could only be seen in winter sunlight.

The woman took quick, short breaths. Though she knew she was exhausted beyond her normal physical limits, she could not afford to attract attention by breathing the air that her body desperately needed. She knew that it was looking for her; that it had caught her scent and was moments away from finding her position.

I must not die here. Not now.

Footsteps of the abysmal knight echoed all over the crumbling remains of a once grand Glastheimian banquet hall as it entered in full rage. Each step from the metal hooves of its phantom steed gave out the heavy sound of shattering marble while it searched to and fro for the huntress.

I must not die here. Not until I have found my Ramus.

The huntress listened in, ears straining for the faintest hint of eluding the knight. The heavy footsteps only drew even closer. Her number was up. She clandestinely picked an arabesque-looking arrow from her quiver and started chanting with utmost silence.

"I am Tamara, sixth descendant of the House of Parris. My arrow is unwavering and my mettle is invincible. Let my arrow be the guide of a thousand others from the heavens," uttered the huntress as she quickly readied her war bow.

With one swing from the gargantuan sword of the knight the whole stone pillar became no more than shattered glass. Dust enveloped the whole hall as the debris all but vaporized from the blow. The Abysmal Knight, struggling to look for the huntress in the midst of the newly formed fog, waved his sword in wild frenzy.

"Arrow shower, Volley of the Kaifa!" shouted Tamara, as she appeared from behind the monstrosity.

The huntress let go of the string and the arrow glowed celestial white. Thousands of shining arrows appeared around the missile before it reached its target. The arrows unwaveringly caught up with the unsuspecting target and the sound of steel eating away steel drowned all sensation of music. After another second, the knight was riddled with so many holes, the heavy armor shattered into minute pieces as the phantom horseman inside it vanished into thin air.

Tamara finally breathed a little easier.

Ramus, I am on my way. Just wait. I'm coming for you.

Slow clapping suddenly filled the silenced banquet. "Magnificent show, I must say. The blood of Parris really flows in your veins. Unfortunately for you my dear, Tamara, it is time for you to join your ancestors."

One missile came out of the dust cloud and flew towards Tamara as she turned to see where the voice was coming from. The arrow hit her thick war armor and pierced her heart. She grimly looked at her chest plate. It was an arrow shaped into a rose with a steel stem filled with razor-sharp thorns. Pain started to spread all over as each beat of her heart only made the wound grow.

"You... Ishaiah. This is not yet over. I cannot die here." Tamara said slowly as blood started coming out of her mouth. Her hands trembled violently as she reached for another arrow from her back.

Another rose came out of the settling fog and hit the huntress once more on the very same spot. The intricately carved war bow, priced heirloom of House Parris, fell into the ground as Tamara slowly slid down to her knees. As she struggled to get up, she only lost more energy. Too much blood has already been spilled.

"In case you did not hear it, that was the sound of the curtain dropping down on your act," said the purple-caped hunter with a face hidden with scarlet bandages as he came out of the shadows. He dragged with him a crude ebony crossbow almost half of his body size. His eyes were bloodshot around the pupils.

Ishaiah approached the huntress and snatched a golden medallion from her bloodied neck. He then dropped a single rose to the pool of blood that surrounded Tamara, almost as if to mock the death of another legend.

"Hmmm. Candidate number: Seventeen. Getting to the finals may not be too hard after all."

Tamara bowed her head and stared at the rose as her eyesight slowly deteriorated. Death, as it seemed to her, could not be eluded for a thousandth time after all. And though at that time she almost felt like crying her heart out, she did not. For such was the fate that she had accepted the moment she entered the games. She finally closed her eyes and smiled one last time. The cold halls of Glastheim suddenly became even colder.

Just wait. I'm coming for you.