Dontarius stood motionless upon the planks of the station deck.  The rain fell mercilessly upon his head and face but he could not move.  Sadness paralyzed the faint hint of human nature he had left but the real reason was he was dead.

There were quick moments that flashed through his mind.  They flashed like 30 second commercials.  A beautiful woman sobbing next to a large man with a gap in his smile.  A wedding and then darkness.  The scenes cycled through his head over and over till a puff of smoke caught his attention.  A train muscled through the rain and darkness.  Dontarius could feel the ground rumble as the train approached.  It seemed to shimmer within the moonlight above but was solid as the wood planks below his feet.

The large outward grill of the earthly steam-powered train approached slowly. Above the train and into the night shot a tall cylinder of white smoke. The operator stood behind the black iron windows half in and half out of this world. He stood with his long left arm upon the whistle.  The operator pulled slowly down releasing a scream from above the train.  The scream pierced the sadness and Dontarius fell to his knees.  The force that held him gone.  Unlike its earthly steam-powered cousin, the black train runs on the essence of life.  The molecular essence of every living being on the train is collected within a steel-walled tender or coal car.  This car had a set of ledges, one on top and the second two feet above the train wheels.  The ledge on the top was merely decorative but the one on the bottom was two foot wide, barely enough room to walk across.  Aluminum hand holds were placed at body length along both sides of the car.  In the center of the car, painted on both sides, was ‘Spirit of the Dead’.

The engineer was tied to the next car.  Long thick chains lengthened to allow him to feed the engine.  The engineer’s car was black, windows gray from soot. The soot containing the remains of evil in men’s heart precious in these parts of the netherworld called Serching.  These remains burned and pushed into the atmosphere of the netherworld.  The Spirit of the Dead approached the wooden deck of the train station.  The conductor pulled the brake as he faded away then reappeared.  Forced air pushed the thick rain soaked air out of the way as the brakes squealed. Dontarius sat up and watched as the engine passed the station.  Following behind the engine were hundreds of caged cars. The cars wooden planks shook in small metal slots as the train moved forward.  Within the passenger cars the dead stood or sat, destiny unknown.  Their new home assigned by the operator.  The train passed through the netherworlds one by one until they cycled back to Serching.  They then started the process over again.  The operators would change but the engineer was always detained within the car behind the engine.

The operator pulled hard upon the brakes forcing the cars to jostle and jam into each other.  The train slowly came to a complete stop.  Once the train stopped the operator disappeared from the engine and reappeared upon the side of the engine and then reappeared upon the wooden station deck.  He disappeared again and reappeared near the front corner of the engine.  He seemed to be inspecting the train.  From the engineer’s car the large man appeared.  He meticulously walked along the side of the coal car holding the handles as he went.  The chain danging from both ankles.  He then disappeared within the cab.  Several large wooden doors opened within the wooden cars behind the engine.  Several men stepped from the cars and jumped to the wooden deck.  They then turned and folded down a set of steel stairs built within the bottom of the cars.  They stood and waited while it seemed like nothing came from the cars.  Then after several minutes a couple of the men folded the stairs back up into small pouches on the bottom of the car then leaped back into the cars.  One car caught Dontarius’s attention when a man appeared within the car.  His hair, fell to his shoulders, was a mess.  Blood stained the right side and the hair was clumped in masses.  The man from the train was started and quickly unfolded the stairs.  He helped the blood-stained man from the train and watched him stumble across the wooden deck.  Dontarius stood quickly.  He looked around and realized that he was alone.  Up till now he had felt a crowd around him but failed to realize he seemed to be alone.   The blood-stained man intrigued Dontarius and he walked slowly toward him.  As he stepped forward he felt cold shivers fall like ice cubes from his shoulders to waist.  It would then grow warm then cold again.  It was as if he was walking between frigid waterfalls.  The blood-stained man walked forward without a thought of any one else upon the station deck.  He stumbled across the wooden planks and disappeared within the terminal.

“You need to come with me,” someone said as they grabbed Dontarius by the shoulder.  Dontarius turned, anger surface quickly, and swung at the man.  Dontarius struck the man upon the face and he fell to the side holding his face.  Another man from the train rushed over to Dontarius and struck him upon the head.

Dontarius woke inside a wooden train car.  His head throbbed.  The car was dark but for the thin bars of light peaking from the wooden planks.  Dontairus was dead,  in an earthly realm sense, but within the netherworlds he was very much alive. The floor of the train car was slick with ethereal goo.  Dontarius laid, his head throbbing upon the wooden floor of the train car. The thin film from the floor covered his face, arm and shoulders. The darkness within the train car pressed upon him as he stared upward at the thin strips of light from the moon. The car rattled loudly and chills danced from the tips of his fingers to the back of his shoulders. Dontarius listened to whispers passing through his ears but saw only one man within the car.  The man from the station stood at the other end of the car smoking a cigarette.  He seemed to care only about that thin roll of paper and leaves.  The whispers surrounded Dontarius and he listened as they spoke of love lost, love found and life taken.  They began to increase and talk over themselves until Dontarius suddenly sat up.  The smoking man looked in his direction for several seconds then looked away.  He finished his cigarette and then walked slowly toward Dontarius.

Suddenly from above something thumped upon the top of the car. The light skittered as several objects began to move above. The smoking man stopped and stared at the shadows till a large hole was torn from the top of the car. Moonlight fell through to the car floor and a small winged man appeared.  He grabbed the smoking man and tossed him violently again the far end of the car. It was then that Dontarius could see silver forms appeared but quickly disappeared into the darkness. Dontarius stood and leaned against the back of the car.  The ethereal goo weighed upon his face and shoulders. The goo chilled him but he could feel the presence of others surrounding him. They talked in excited bursts of confusion and fear.   Another man leaped down from the hole in the ceiling and looked at Dontarius.  The man was more bird then man.  From the moonlight he could trace the framework of a large bird. It’s two large feet curled with several large knuckles on three toes. Upon the toes were large triangular claws but it’s face was that of a man.

“What do we do with him,” said the man with the wings.  The bird man walked slowly toward him.  The spirits chattered around him.  It was almost too much to bare and fear suddenly gripped Dontarius.  He shook violently as the bird man reached for him.  Suddenly, the bird man fell backward and skittered toward the other end of the car.  A charge of electricity was in the air but Dontarius had not created it.  The spirits surrounding him had caused the charge.  Dontarius fell downward and watched as the man with wings helped the other up.  They spoke as both watched.  The spirits surrounding Dontarius chattered and cheered proud of what they had just accomplished but that was short-lived.  The train jerked violently and began to slow.  A large growl escaped into the air from the front of the train and the two bird men quickly stood.  They fought over what to do next.  Dontarius seemed to be an important find but something else was approaching. The chill from the spirits within the car seemed to disappear.  Dontarius watched as they flew from the hole within the top of the train car.  The bird men seemed to notice this too and quickly leaped for him.  The larger man grasp him tightly as the smaller man fumbled with the car door.  A warm stream of fire burst overhead as both seemed to jump.  “Move… move!”  Shouted the larger man.  The door was soon opened and the first bird man leaped from the train car.  The second attempted to but struggled to restrain Dontarius.  Eventually, he grabbed Dontarius tightly and just leaped.

The wind caught the large bird man by surprise and he struggled to hold onto his human prize.  A large flame of fire certainly didn’t help the situation.  Below Dontarius was a quickly moving, dark landscape.  The large bird man skillfully managed the load and the fire.  He held out his wings and coasted around the train.

The dragon hovered over the train.  It’s head was arrow-shaped and it had an extended neck that whipped around like a snake.  It’s abdomen was small leading to a long tail which ended in a split-shape almost like a trident.  It’s wings were humongous.  They were large leather and bone contraptions.  Every time the large beast would bellow out a shot of fire the wings seemed to get in the way.  They would char, leaving small red balls of flame, but would then extinguish quickly.  The large bird man held Dontarius tightly as it fought to avoid the blaze but the dragon out maneuvered and faced the bird man.  The tip of the dragon’s nose smoldered and it’s entire head bled smoke.  The bird man attempted to fly down and right but the dragon countered.  Other bird men flew from other directions.  Suicide missions that were intended to distract the dragon and save lives but only took them.  The dragon opened it’s large dinosaur jaws and snapped each creature the flew near.  The large bird man attempted to fly right then left again but the dragon read each move.  From inside the dragons mouth shadows of it’s large teeth danced in front of an orange glaze.  Smoke began to billow from the dragons nose then mouth.  The dragon opened his mouth wider and the bird man dropped Dontarius.

Dontarius fell through the sky face down.  A bullet of warmth cruised from his head to toes as the ground became closer and closer.  The station was four-hundred yards behind him.  Beneath him was a thick blanket of trees.  Green mushroom shaped bringers of pain and death.  Dontarius was two-hundred feet from the ground when he was dropped.  His hands and feet went numb with anticipation as the tree line quickly approached.

Dontarius hit the treeline and disappeared within the forest.  The first limb struck him hard in the gut and another in the chest.  The wind in his lungs swept from his chest and he gasp.  The weight of his feet pulled him down and then backward.  He then fell another twenty feet to a tri-fecta of pain and agony.  A large limb caught him and spun him into a pair of smaller limbs.  Those limbs held for seconds as he caught his breath then tumbled into the trunk when they gave way.  The remaining fall went dark.  Dontarius went unconscious.

End Chapter 1

Dontarius opened his tired eyes.  The light from the morning sun was sifted through the thick leaves.  In front of him stood rows of thick trees most bound with a thick rope-like material.  Dontarius was tied tightly to a tree.  The material wound around his waist and chest.  Beside him was a winged man.  A tall thin-faced man with large wings bound by the same material.

“What is going on?”  Dontarius’s voice was raspy, he cleared it.  “What did you and your people do?”

“You will thank us,”  the winged man replied.

“I’m not very thankful right now.”

Behind both men something shuffled quickly followed by a quiet chant.  Dontarius stiffened and pushed against the tree.  He attempted to make himself small which was impossible.  Within moments smaller men marched past the trees.  The smaller men marched in 6 columns all perfectly measured and stepping in time.  After 5 rows of men they turned right and unbound several bound persons.  They helped them down slowly.  Covered their heads briskly and turned back toward Dontarius.  The small men marched forward.  They wore a covered hood which buried their faces.  “They are the mirror-keepers.”  Said the winged man.  “I don’t know much else about them.  I, along with the other Eros kind, tend to stay within the mountains.”

The noise from the winged man prompted several of the mirror-keepers to look up.  Their faces were black, frightening.  Their small eyes pale and hung above the nose.  Dontarius froze and stared forward.  He wished the small men away but they marched slowly away from the trees.