After the battle at Zzyzx.
Kendra is 16, Seth is 14.
Seth is about to be initiated into the Knights of the Dawn, he has been training with Warren but not the Sphinx who said he would begin once he was a Knight.
The Knights have been tracking an unusual amount of magic energy in the form of a swirling storm cloud in Asia. It hasn't done anything or grown until recently when it has become almost angry. It is slowly getting larger as it feeds off the energy of animals, plants and magic surrounding it but so far not humans or higher intelligent beings. The Sorenson's are called upon in the hope that Kendra's powers can do something as nothing else has worked or been able to touch it.
Technology is starting to be used alongside the traditional magical means. Scans show that there is a concentrated source in the center. The storm is about 2 miles long and several hundred feet tall at this point. It is growing steadily at about 2 feet per minute.
The team consists of Kendra, Bracken, Warren, Stan, a few other knights, and Seth who demanded not to be left out this time and Warren thought it would be good training. They get there and suit up, the area has been scouted and it's perfectly safe for people to go in. Seth is told to say behind but he slips away from camp and follows the group.
To Kendra and Bracken the storm feels as if it is a mass of demon magic holding its breath. Seth feels strangely connected to it. As they near the center the wind picks up inside and thunder rumbles from the clouds above. They see a dark orb floating a few feet off the ground. The wind is furiously spinning around it while it glows with a dark light, pulsing and giving off some kind of dark energy. A figure miraculously stands just a few feet away from it despite the severity of the wind. It is a tall, dark, thin figure. At about 100 yards the team has to shout to hear each other but the figure seems to hear them and turns. He is a very pale, albino white, almost glowing in the dark. His face and head is hairless and his eyes are dark and sunken into his skull. He smiles and sharp rows of teeth flash. Raising his arm his mouth with his palm parallel to the ground his unearthly voice seems to pierce through the wind.
Brackens pulls out his horn and makes to stand in front of Kendra as the ground everywhere erupts with masses of dirt like creatures. To Seth they look like small versions of Hugo but uglier. Shouting at her to run Bracken's pearly horn transforms into a shining sword. Warren and the other Knights draw their weapons and begin to defend against the horde of dirt monsters. Seth, who had stayed back out of sight, draws into the dark and slowly shadow walks towards the dark figure. He wants to help the team but knows they can take care of themselves and maybe if he took out the guy who called the monsters they wouldn't be so angry at him for following them.
As he draws near he falls to his hands and knees to fight the wind. It whistles past so furiously that his eyes watered and his skin rippled. Slowly slinking around the side of the man he attempted to come at him from behind. As he did so he stood up fighting to stand. Drawing his short adamantine sword Seth swung at the man with all his might. Watching the blade flash towards his back he was already picturing the praise he would get from the others. His dreams were interrupted when the man turned and grabbed the edge of the blade faster then Seth could blink. His mind confused and too slow to react, he could only watch as in one fluid motion the man wrenched his sword out of Seth's grip and grabbed his throat with the other. Inhuman strength lifted Seth off the ground and pulled him closer to the creature's face.
Seth gasped for air, his legs kicking and arms grabbing at its hands but to no avail.
Drawing Seth closer to its face the creature once again smiled. Seth could see that although it looked human from a distance it was far from it. White waxy skin stretched across a skull so tightly it was almost translucent. It's eyes were completely black and sunken so deep they seemed to almost disappear. Behind its sharpened teeth a forked tongue flitted hungrily as if it was tasting the air. Hearing a shout from behind it the creature turned still holding Seth as if he were nothing but a cloth doll in the hands of a child. Bracken, a little banged up with a cut above one eye, was attempting to run towards the creature. The others were still fighting as the dirt monsters continued to burst from the ground. No matter how many they took down another replaced it just as fast. Warren was swinging his sword with a furious vengeance, trying to protect a fallen Knight that Kendra was desperately trying to heal. The other two Knights were fighting just as hard, one firing black cross bolts that burst into purple flames when they hit while the other was wielding a spear made entirely of ice.
Bracken managed to break through the monsters and came at the creature with a shout of anger. His sword seemed to fly through the wind with ease but faster than light the creature dodged and pulled a long black sword out, presumably from his cloak, to block. At this point the lack of oxygen was starting to cause Seth's vision to go black. He continued to grasp feebly at the hand holding him but his strength was going weak and he felt much like a fish stuck on a line in the hands of a fisherman. Was this how he was going to go out? After surviving much worse he was going to die in the hand of this hairless weirdo with no respect for personal space or mouthwash?
Bracken whirled around, trying to land a single blow on the guy but no matter how fast he moved or what technique he tried nothing hit. It was as if the creature could sense his moves before he made them. The pale thing was hardly using his sword, he was just dancing around Bracken's attacks and smiling while he did it! Breathing hard and fighting against the ever growing wind Bracken watched as Seth's hands stopped fighting and his eyes closed. Knowing he was running out of time to save the boy's life he made an attempt to lunge at the creature. As it dodged his sword he summoned his other horn and swung it around anticipating where the creature would be. Calling on his magic the horn flashed a brilliant light directly into its face. A piercing inhuman shriek filled the air as the creature dropped Seth and stumbled back, shielding its burned eyes with its arms. Bracken immediately ran to Seth and was relieved when he saw him coughing and trying to sit up.
Glancing around quickly he saw the creature glaring at him, gone was the mad smile. Now it was angry, it had been hurt, it would destroy him.
Readying himself Bracken summoned his power again. Unwilling to underestimate him again the creature raised its deathly black sword and rushed at him with a fury.
Kendra managed to stabilize the Knight who had been knocked unconscious by a stony fist. Looking around she could see the dire situation. They were completely unprepared and had no back up. Who was this pale man and what did he want with this evil storm. As she moved to draw her bow and help the others she noticed the number of dirt monsters had gone down. Why had they stopped coming? Were they winning? "Kendra!" Warren shouted as he sliced a dirt monster in two, "Get to Seth and Bracken! They need your help more than we do! We have this!"
Seth? What was he doing here? Glancing towards the orb Kendra saw Bracken in a furious battle with the pale creature and Seth sitting on the ground. Running towards her brother she felt the wind surging, pushing her back. She watched as Seth shakily got up and started running to her. "What are you doing here?" She screamed over the wind. Seth attempted to answer but stopped and shook his head, pointing at his throat. Kendra saw it was a deep purple and black as if it had been crushed. She grabbed his arm and gestured towards Bracken. "We need to help him!" Seth shook his head and pointed at the creature. As Kendra watched she felt a sense of awe and helplessness. The battle was amazing, the creature was a flash of black and white dancing around Bracken, it seemed as if he were simply toying with him. Yet amazingly the longer she watched the more she saw that Bracken was holding his own. He had even managed to put a tear in the creature's coat and seemed to be slowly gaining the upper hand. This was not a fight she could help with.
However as she stood there Seth suddenly surged forward. She watched almost in slow motion as he ran towards the battle. Her scream died in the wind as she watched her brother run into certain death.
Seth watched the fight closely. He knew he couldn't take on the creature by himself and if he jumped in he would almost certainly just get in the way. Yet as he stood there he felt almost a stillness come over him. It felt like he was drawing some kind of power from the very air and his senses were heightened. The battle almost seemed to slow for him and as he watched he suddenly jumped forward. Bracken was facing away from him and Seth could see the creature's left hand reach behind it. He knew before he saw it that it was a danger for Bracken. Running as fast as he could and without thinking he jumped past Bracken grabbing the creature's right arm. As he did so he felt an unbelievable burning in his right side. The creature growled in anger and Bracken quickly reacted by cutting its arm off that Seth had jumped onto.
Another piercing shriek and the creature stumbled back again, a bloody dagger clutched in its remaining hand, its severed stump dripping with a dark substance.. The creature again screamed at Bracken but this time it continued moving back, drawing its dirt monsters with it. It faded into the darkening cloud and the ground became still again as the monsters left.
Bracken immediately dropped down and turned Seth over. The wound was incredibly deep and by the looks of it the dagger had been poisoned. He hadn't seen it coming, Seth had somehow known and took the deadly blow for him. Watching as the boy grew pale and began shaking he drew upon the last of his energy and attempted to pull the poison out. Feeling Kendra as she dropped to her knees beside him and placed her hand on his shoulder he drew magic from her. Pleading with Seth to stay alive and feeling hot tears drip down his face Bracken worked with all his might. He was so concentrated on his task that he didn't notice the others come up until Warren knelt next to him. "The storm Bracken, its getting worse!" Warren shouted. Looking up for just a moment Bracken saw beams of heavy lightning striking the ground in a random pattern.
Whenever they struck the remains of a dirt monster the body was sucked up into the cloud as a wave of ash. The wind shrieked angrily and the thunder boomed enough to shake the very ground. "Bracken we need to get everyone out of here it's too dangerous!" Glancing over at Kendra's face he saw her grief, her brother was dying in his arms but he needed her to live too. "Get Kendra and the others out first, I'll bring Seth as soon as I can stabilize him!" He shouted back. Warren looked at him and Bracken knew he didn't believe him but he was willing to save as many as he could. Nodding he grabbed Kendra's arms and dragged her away as the others carried the injured Knight and followed.
The moment her touch was gone Bracken felt a huge decrease in energy. He felt Seth's life sipping away. The wound was too deep, having punctured what felt like something important and his magic too low Bracken knew it was no good. Watching the last bit of color fade from his face and his shaking slowly stopping, it ended. Bracken felt his heart break for the boy who had become his friend and saved his life. Looking up at the swirling storm cloud Bracken prayed that Seth's soul would find peace. Pausing to catch his breath and calm his shaking arms he reached for Seth's body. He was not going to leave him here to become part of this demon magic. The moment he touched him however a bolt of lightning struck the body. The current surged into Bracken's right arm and he screamed in agony.
Barely managing to tear his arm away he fell back and felt everything go dark. It must have been only a few seconds because he woke up to Warren shouting his name and shaking him. Peering up through blurry eyes he watched as Warren struggled to help him stand. The pain in his arm was immense. Like a cold fire burning and spreading up his arm. Fighting with everything he struggled to block the burn to just his arm. Warren looped Bracken's other arm over his shoulder and began to drag him out. Getting a bit used to the pain Bracken struggled to help him and the two began to sort of run/limp away. Looking back for just a moment Bracken was shocked to see Seth's body lying there but could not remember why that would be surprising. Whispering "I'm sorry my friend, I failed you." He began to fight back tears as they struggled to make it out. "The storm is growing faster and more violent!" Warren explained. Lightning exploded around them and the winded pushed them every which way. Fighting hard the managed to stumble only a few times and finally broke through the thick clouds. Daylight erupted around them but they couldn't stop. The storm continued to expand.
Meeting up with the group they all climbed into the rented jeeps and took off. Bracken took a moment to glance at his arm and had to swallow some bile. It looked dead. Blackened and shriveled all the way up to his elbow while the skin past was red and inflamed. He couldn't move his hand and anything it touched caused incredible pain. Kendra gently placed her hand on his shoulder and looked at him with eyes wide. He shook his head, "I'm sorry, there wasn't anything I could do...He...he's g...gone." Choking back tears Bracken felt Kendra lean her head on him and silently cry with him. That journey home was torture. Everyone wrapped up in their own grief.
Telling her parents and grandparents was the hardest thing she ever had to do. The funeral was small and quiet, they used the same plot that Kendra's fake had been buried in. It rained that day but eventually the sun came out again. As did their happiness. Grieving was over and life was to be returned to. Another party was sent to report on the storm but when they got there it was gone. The land was stripped of all signs of life and the energy itself was gone. As was Seth's body, no trace was found, it was presumed that the storm had absorbed it.
Kendra went on to finish high school and get a college degree in teaching. She had always loved kids and wanted to help their futures be bright. Midway through her schooling the offer came up to become an eternal. The Knights thought her skills would allow her to protect herself. It was a hard decision, thinking about life without most of her friends and family and always losing those she was close to. But when Warren accepted the offer as well and Bracken finally proposed she accepted. They were married in the spring and what seemed like the entire fairy court came. A day full of happiness but also a sadness when she thought of Seth not being there. Her parents were very accepting of Bracken but a little hesitant on the magic side of his family. And life continued to move forward. Kendra never forgot her brother and visited his grave each year but she came to a peace about it. 12 years passed and though as a Sorenson she was used to surprises, she never imagined the event that would set off another journey on that warm fall afternoon.
Seth was on fire. This was worse than getting shot in the Mesa Sanctuary or being mauled by Graulus. This pain didn't fade but continue to grow with every second. Starting with his throat and connecting with whatever the creature had stabbed him with Seth wanted to scream. He wanted to die, every fiber of his being was telling him to let go and let it end but he couldn't. Something was pulling him and forcing him awake. It was a bright light that also burned him but he couldn't recognize what it was. He wanted to plead with who ever was holding him here to let him go, just let the agony end. Seth felt like he was slipping into insanity from the pain when suddenly the light was gone and replace with what felt like a sucking force. It seemed to want to draw his very essence out.
As it did so the pain seemed to go with it, he felt calm at first. Maybe he could just let this force take him away, let it deal with his suffering. As he was ready to surrender himself Seth heard a voice. It was a gruff voice but so familiar and comforting that he paused. Cracking his eyes open he looked over and saw a figure standing above him, glowing faintly. "Seth." It called, "Don't give up so easily boy, you're stronger than this." At this Seth had a flash of recognition. A body trapped under a beam in a broken house, pleading with him not to give up. Coulter? How could he be here, he died in an accident Seth had never forgiven himself for. "Come on boy, fight back. It isn't over yet and your family needs your help!" The ghostly figure kneeled down. Seth tried to speak but his crushed throat wouldn't allow him. Yet somehow the Coulter ghost understood him. "It's alright, I'm here to help you as much as I can." He continued, "This storm is gonna keep spreading now that it's vessel is broken." Coulter ghost gestured to the orb. "It's gonna keep going and sucking up every bit of energy it comes in contact with until there is nothin left. Which means your family and friends are all in danger." Seth felt the truth of his words as he watched a dirt monster corpse be absorbed by a bolt of lightning.
Looking up at the Coulter ghost he tried to form another question. "The only way to stop it boy is to give it another suitable vessel, something that can take it in and prevent it from spreading like the orb was used for." The Coulter ghost looked at him sadly. "I would do it boy but I'm not really here, your experience just now with death is the only reason you can see me." Seth suddenly understood what he was asking him and fear shot through his chest. If the pain he had felt just now was from only a small bit of the storm what would it be to take the whole thing inside him. His eyes pleading looked up at the image of his old friend. "I know what you're feeling boy but I can't make the decision for you. You have gone through more than what most folk should ever have to go through, you don't have to do this to. Everyone would understand if you want it to end right here, I can take you with me right now if you want and all the pain will end. You won't have to worry anymore." He paused, and then spoke again more softly. "But then you would never know what could have happened if you tried. But again, it's your choice."
At this Seth closed his eyes. The thought of being free from the pain was so tempting and wonderful, it seemed like a dream. But then the others would surely die and everyone else on this planet. Could he be that selfish? A thought came to his mind, a memory of a brave dragon slaying treasure hunter who had never given up. Even when the odds were stacked high and he had walked through hell itself, Patton had never quit. He always did what he could putting others first. Seth had wanted more then anything to be like him. So how could he give up? No he wouldn't! No matter how selfish and annoying he had been in the past here was his chance to put everything right even if it cost him his life.
Opening his eyes, Seth faced the Coulter ghost and with determination he nodded. The figure looked relieved and stated, "I'm proud of you boy, and Patton would be proud too." He smiled, "I can't help with this either but I can give you some guidance. You need to get to the orb and break it open. That will unleash the entirety of the storm but only let it stay open for a moment. When it does you need to draw the energy into yourself and don't stop, if you stop it will destroy you and everything else." Again he paused and looked increasingly worried. "It will be the hardest thing you have ever had to do and right now I can tell you it will probably be very painful. I also have no idea what will happen to you after."
Seth tried to gulp but his throat prevent anything from going down. Great, he would have to do this on a dry throat. Steeling himself he manage to roll his body over until he was lying down facing the orb. Glancing back one last time at the Coulter ghost he was shocked to see tears running down its translucent face. It smiled back at him and Seth knew it would stay with him until the end. That gave him courage and so he fought through the pain and began to drag himself towards the orb. This time he didn't even feel the wind, it was as if the air around him had gone still with anticipation. Drawing near, Seth grabbed his sword that had dropped earlier and started to heave himself onto his knees. The orb itself floated about a foot off the ground and pulsed gently. Seth noticed a small crack in the side that must have come from the extreme amount of energy swirling around. The amount of magical energy was astounding. How was he supposed to fit all this inside him including what was already wrecking havoc around him? Well he had never been one for carefully thought out plans that made sense. Breathing hard he swung the sword up and with a silent shout he plunged it into to cracked orb.
Captain Gryff grumbled as he pulled his cloak tighter. Why were all the top secret, world changing missions only he could do always so cold? The wind whistled through the trees as he made his way through the dark forest. Also, why were these missions always so obscure and vague. Vorur Gu had told him nothing other then travel here and find the one who needed help, oh and to not come in contact with any other people or creatures. Well that was sure specific and easy to do. Then again the Vorur's instructions were always like that. Well here he was following orders, wandering alone in a dark forest and freezing his toes off. At first he allowed himself to think this way for several minutes before he chastised himself. These were blasphemous thoughts and he of all people should know better. His calling was sacred and one he strived to perform with the utmost care and diligence. Finding lost souls may not have been his first job requirement but it was a part of the whole and so he would do it. Especially when the Vorur personally asked him to do it.
Cresting a small hill the older man paused to rest. He was getting on in years eleven though he would never admit it. Tall and strong he towered a good head over most men. His dark skin and long braided hair reflected his heritage. He hailed from a tribe of warriors in the south that in once were feared and respected as fighters. Those days had faded long from even legends and he was the last pure warrior from his tribe. Dark tattoos blended into his skin, only visible when light shone on him they told of his might and ferocity in battle. It had been a very long time since he had bested in a fight and these were reminders of that. His skill in battle and sharp mind had made him an excellent choice for Captain of the Night but it was his calm and kind manner that made those he served with respect him. Breathing in the evening air he felt a stirring not far from his position. Looking out he across the trees he could see a dark cloud that had gathered near the ground. It was pulsing with energy and seemed to writhe almost in pain. Sensing that this was connected to the one he had come for he quickly struck off in the direction of the cloud. As he drew close he realized the storm, though massive when he saw it afar had shrunk in size.
As he watched it continued to grow ever smaller and began to fade until he could make out what was inside. When he saw it his heart dropped with fear. Before him was a young human kneeling on the ground and drawing the storm into himself! This energy that Gryff felt was surely demonic magic of intense power but this child was absorbing it! He had never witnessed such a feat and could only wonder at the strength of the boy and what had possessed him to do such a thing. Cautiously and slowly drawing near he watched as the boy trembled and fell back. The storm continue to funnel into his body through what looked like his side. As the last of the energy whisked into the boy's body, he suddenly arched his back and shook from pain. Gryff stood a safe distance away and watched in amazement as the boy's body took the magic and began to change. His skin darken to a stoney grey, his legs cracked and shifted bending backwards, claws erupted from his fingers and horns sprouted from his scalp. Gryff felt immense anguish as he watched the boy become more demon than human.
After several minutes the shaking stopped and the boy lay deathly still. Creeping forward Gryff leaned down towards the boy. Shock filled him as he saw the boy's chest rising with breath. He was still alive? Once again amazement rushed through him. This boy was incredible! Gryff had no doubt that this boy was the one he had come for. If his mind was still intact he would need help to adjust and learn to control this incredible amount of energy inside him. For now though he would seal the boy and take him home. Biting his thumb to draw blood, Captain Gryff drew a small symbol on the boy's forehead. A slight shimmer covered the body, the sealing spell would keep him asleep and safe until Gryff removed it. It would be far easier to deal with him awake once they were safely back. Carefully picking him up, Gryff cradled the boy in his arms and began the journey home.