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February 11, 2012
Book 1 - Chapter 1: The Shadow
Roshan mumbled incoherently and kicked madly at nothing; his muscles were tense and his body was drenched in sweat. The night terrors were overwhelming.
They had plagued him since childhood, depicting violent, unexplainable events and cryptic signs. Sometimes he was in them and sometimes he was not, but the result was the same: sheer terror on an unimaginable scale. Brutal murders of people Roshan didn't even know; destruction on a global scale! And the most intense dreams would recur night after night, relentlessly...
For a while the dreams had subsided. He had been approaching adolescence when suddenly the horrid dreams stopped coming. Then followed a glorious few years during which he was free at last of his midnight curse.
But then he turned sixteen and was made aware of his identity as the Avatar, and his destiny to master the four bending arts and maintain balance in the world. That night, the dreams returned...
Now each and every night was the same, the most recent dream having repeated itself nightly for the past year--far longer than any had previously. He would drift off to sleep only to find himself wandering aimlessly through a stark red and black hallway overcome with smoke. Upon reaching the end of the hallway he would greet a figure cloaked in shadow. The figure was at once both remarkably familiar and strikingly foreign, an observation that was more than slightly unnerving.
The shadow sat facing the wall, legs crossed meditatively. Upon hearing Roshan's approaching footsteps it would grunt and rise to its feet. Then, without a moment's notice, the figure would turn around and, in a fit of violence and rage, it would jab its fists roughly into Roshan's abdomen.
It was always the same...
Roshan would fall backwards and then awaken, night after night, just before his head hit the floor. He could feel the beginnings of impact; a sliver of unimaginable pain as the back of his cranium made contact with the solid marble floor of the chamber. Then, as the dream diminished and Roshan was brought hurtling back to reality, he would hear the voice of his assailant say, as if from miles away, "I knew you'd come. I won't let you take them."
But tonight was different. Tonight, the dream didn't fade as he plummeted backwards toward imminent pain. His head collided with the ground and he was enveloped in a sea of crimson pain. Stars swam before his eyes as he struggled to bring his blurred vision into focus.
The figure stood over him, a grimace discernible among its shadowed features. "I knew you'd come. I won't let you take them." Roshan rolled to the side as the figure brought a beam of light and heat down upon him. The flames licked at his side as he sprang nimbly to his feet and raised his hands in a weary defensive stance.
"Who are you?" Roshan inquired, and he noticed with surprise that his voice was quivering.
The figure said nothing, but took a single step toward him and unleashed another beam of fire in his direction. Roshan tensed his muscles and soared into the air, past his opponent, settling down before an oddly-shaped groove in the floor. His moves were methodical, like clockwork, as if he knew exactly where to go and what to do. He breathed out slowly and guided a fistful of fire into the gap. He heard a click and suddenly the ground swung upwards on a mechanized hinge, revealing a small pool of water hidden beneath the floor.
There was a rapid gust of wind and Roshan's assailant was upon him in an instant.
"You don't want to do this," the figure spoke, in voice that Roshan suddenly realized sounded all too familiar. Roshan ignited a flame in his hand and looked up into his enemy's face without fear.
The figure stepped forward into the firelight and Roshan cried out in disbelief. "You!" he breathed as his own eyes glared angrily back at him.
As he turned to run, his shadowy duplicate moved his arms slowly forward and Roshan was thrown violently from his feet by a turbulent gust of wind. Before he could rise again, flames had engulfed him and Roshan burned...
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