CHAPTER #1: DESTINY AWAITS YOUR CLAIM
Dark clouds obscured the night sky as torrents of rain cascaded down upon the forest, accompanied by persistent flashes of lightning and deafening cracks of thunder. The howling winds elicited a wild dance from the dead tree branches, devoid of color and vegetation. Running along the muddy woodland floor was Mallory Dane, drenched head-to-toe.
He was fourteen and tall for his age, dark hair and warm ivory skin, his features hinting at a mixed European/Asian ancestry. Deep brown eyes opened wide in panic, heart pounding loudly, he scrambled through the forest and kept looking over his shoulder as if being chased by something terrifying. Echoing out behind him was a raspy, reptilian-like maniacal laughter as his pursuer splashed through the rain-soaked ground like a giant serpent.
“No, no, no!” the boy cried frantically in an American accent as he tripped and fell, quickly jumping back to his feet. He looked back just in time to see a pair of huge greenish-yellow eyes with slits for pupils moving rapidly through the darkness towards him before he tore off running again.
Coming into a clearing, he shrieked and slid to a halt as he found a pack of zombie-like wolves crowding before him. They were fairly large and covered in black fur and rotting flesh, emitting distorted, gurgling growls and a stomach-turning stench.
Mallory snapped his head around as he heard the serpent slither up behind him, inhaling sharply as it grasped a scaly hand around his throat and lifted him up. Getting his first good look at this creature as the clouds parted to allow moonlight to shine in, he noticed it was a hybrid of some kind with the body of a snake from the waist down and the upper torso of a humanoid woman. She was covered from head-to-tail in greenish-yellow scales, tattered black material wrapped around her chest and shoulders, and long white hair that was wild and flowing.
Her lips curled into a sinister grin, revealing sharp fangs and a long red tongue. Her breath reeked of death. The sight made the boy even more terrified, if that was even possible. She then opened her mouth wide, revealing a swirling tornado of bright green flames deep within her throat. Mallory yelped out as he felt himself being shoved down her esophagus, the light of the fire reflected in his terrified eyes. He heard disembodied laughing all around him as his entire body was engulfed.
The teen sat up suddenly in his bed, screaming bloody murder. Two of the three cats that had been sleeping near his feet went running for the door in terror, crashed into each other, and then dashed off in separate directions. A second scream could be heard down the hall in his father’s bedroom.
“What?! What?!” the man cried out in confusion before jumping out of bed and rushing to his son’s room.
“Sorry Pops, I just had a nightmare,” Mallory facepalmed as Nathaniel Dane came to his doorway. He provided the European half of the boy’s genetics, and had lightly-tanned skin, greenish-brown eyes, short black hair, and a neatly-trimmed beard. The teen then looked up and grinned. “That’s why I was screaming, but what’s your excuse?”
“Man, all things were possible for a sec there,” he laughed as he replied. “You could have stubbed your toe or aliens could have been kidnapping you - I didn’t know what the hell was going on!”
The two devolved into hysterics for a brief moment. “You sure you’re okay, though, Mal?”
“Yeah, just a stupid dream,” the boy waved it off. “You can head back to bed. Thanks for checking on me.”
“Okay, then,” the father walked over and petted the only cat who had stayed on the bed, who had been with the family since Mallory was a toddler. She was a domestic shorthair with a rare combination of solid black fur and bright blue eyes. “Keep an eye on him, okay Skye?”
She meowed in reply, then crawled up on the teen’s lap and booped her head into his chest. Nathaniel smiled and headed back to bed while Mallory laid down again, giving the cat lots of scritches as she curled up into a ball on his torso and purred loudly. But sleep eluded him for some time, the image of those vibrant greenish-yellow snake eyes burned into his memory…