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Chapter 1

The Arena

He saw nothing but blackness. Moments passed, then the world seemed to swirl into being around him. He was no longer in total blackness, but could now see that he was in some sort of medium-sized building. It almost looked like a small arena, except he could see no chairs for spectators in the stands. As he thought of spectators, he realized he was not alone.

At the far end of the arena floor, he could barely discern a dark figure standing in the gloomy arena light. The figure strode towards him purposefully, and as he did so a chilling fear shot through his body. The figure seemed to hold him where he stood, dreading the figure's approach. He looked around. There seemed to be no exits to this arena, even if he could move.

He could not tell how much time had passed before the figure was only a few feet away. Then it stopped. He could not see its face, due to the long hooded cloak he could now see that the it wore. A few moments of unnerving silence passed as the figure stood unmoving.

Finally he formed the courage to address the cloaked form. "Who are you?" he spoke with a quivering voice. More silence passed. Suddenly the figure approached even closer. When it had walked close enough that it could reach out and touch him, it suddenly drew back its hood, revealing a seemingly human, yet strangely alien face.

Then it spoke in a slow, hissing voice. "I am called the Assassin", it smiled hideously at him. Then its eyes narrowed, "I have been sent to destroy you."

It slowly parted its cloak in the front, revealing large metallic armor that seemed to be part of the strange being, fitting its quasi-human shape perfectly. It lifted a muscular shaped arm out of the folds of the cloak at its right side. The arm seemed also to be covered by the close-fitting metallic body armor that covered the figure's torso. The figure stopped raising its arm once it was leveled at him. Then there seemed to be a shimmering in the air around the figure's raised hand, which was now shaped as if it were grasping something parallel to its body. Then he realized that a very threatening-looking device was materializing in the figure's hand.

He began stepping backwards away from the figure, as he found he could suddenly move again. He kept his gaze directed at the figure's hand. The device was pointed at his chest. The figure tightened its finger over the handle of the device. Then he realized -- it was some sort of gun.

A bright, tightly focussed beam leapt from the tip of the gun, but he saw it coming and dodged left. The figure aimed the gun at him again, but he was already running around the arena wall, looking for a way into the upper area. Another beam burnt a small hole in the wall just to his right. The figure was still calmly standing and firing. He gauged the height of the wall and judged it to be roughly twice his height. He ran his fingers over part of it. Completely smooth.

Another beam hit the wall just under him, as he jumped, attempting to grasp the wall. He slid back down until his hand caught in the hole made by the second beam shot at him. It was still warm from the energy released into it, but he was able to use it to vault over the wall.

He could hear the Assassin running after him. Apparently he had caught his stalker unawares by escaping from into the upper area of the arena. He was still running up steps to reach the highest level, when he studied the arena around him. It looked nothing like any arenas he had ever been to, yet he somehow knew it was an arena, and even felt he had been here before.

The Assassin had cleared the wall and was now running up the steps after him. He had almost reached the top. He felt that once he reached the top he would be safe. The top of the stairs loomed ahead of him, but he saw no other exit. Only a window he could not see through because he was not level with it yet. The Assassin had reached the midpoint of the stairs, and would be there in moments. Strangely, it had stopped firing. It probably was waiting to trap him at the top and be sure of its next shot.

Then he reached the window. He looked out on an alien world. Like the arena itself, somehow he felt as though he knew this strange world, but couldn't remember how. The Assassin was still coming. There was no escape for him now. No escape except to jump, risking almost certain death. He couldn't make up his mind. The ground was so far away he couldn't see it clearly. That woud mean several moments or even minutes of fear-ridden free falling before he learned his fate.

Then he noticed a girl seemed to have appeared next to him, facing the window. He couldn't remember her being there before, but didn't think she had just appeared either, because she too seemed strangely familiar. He looked at her face. He was certain he knew her.

Then the Assassin fired again. Whether the Assassin fired at him or the girl, he didn't know. The beam grazed his right shoulder, sending searing roars of pain through his right side.

"Go!" she motioned out the window. Somehow he trusted her. Without thinking of what would happen to the girl if the Assassin caught her, without wondering how she had gotten there, without wondering if she followed him out the window, he jumped. As he fell the world swirled back into empty blackness.


Chapter 2

Too Real

He awoke with a start. He could feel the comforting softness of the sheets on his bed. He took a few moments to try to understand what had happened. The last thing that he remembered was jumping out the window of the arena. But when falling from great heights in dreams, he usually woke just before he struck the ground. This time he woke right after he had jumped from the window.

He looked at his bedside alarm clock. It was half past eleven. That night he hadn't fallen asleep until about eleven. The dream had only lasted half an hour at the most. For just a dream, he felt very disoriented. The dream had been so real, and so scary. His heart was still pounding from the fear he had felt while fleeing from the Assassin. He had never encountered anything like the Assassin while dreaming before. It was too futuristic and complex a character for his vivid imagination.

The girl he remembered. He had a feeling that she had been in many of his dreams before. He could not be sure, because in dreams, his feelings were altered. While he dreamt he was in the arena, he had felt that he had been there before, yet he did not recognize it. He couldn't be sure if he had ever seen the arena before, or if the familiar feeling the arena gave him was just part of the dream.

He knew the girl had been in another of his dreams. He had dreamt he was storming a castle to free the princess inside. The girl had been that princess. He had ordered his men to make a battering ram, and use it on the castle doors. With the first crash of the ram against the brittle wood of the doors, the doors had been obliterated. His men had then suddenly disappeared behind him as he rushed into the castle in search of the princess.

The castle had been silent and empty. It gave him an eery feeling as he ran through the castle's numerous hallways. He had instinctively known which way to go. With every step he could feel that he was coming closer to the princess. He felt that there was one obstacle between he and the princess. Some evil presence that chilled his blood.

Then he turned a corner and saw it. An evil knight