“I hear empathy doesn’t exist much anymore. People only care about money. They have their priorities straight.
Now, if we could only get rid of love, we’d be good. It is so irritating when people get in the way of family or friends. There was this one old man, he was even knighted, and he just got in the way when I was trying to kill your friend Jonathan. And now, I won’t probably get the pleasure. I get to leave that to you.
I raised my gun and shot, grazing Harkin’s ear.
“How dare you!” I shrieked.
“Ah, I see you might already be angry enough,” he said, unfazed. “Illuma, come out.”
Slowly emerging from the behind the bushes was a beautiful woman. Her hair was long glossy and black. Her face was flawless and symmetrical, eyes a vibrant green, and lips pale, yet still a lovely pink. She wasn’t wearing anything, but because of what she was, it didn’t seem to be a problem. Her whole body had the appearance of a mannequin, her skin like porcelain.
“Hello, Aria. It is wonderful to meet you. I am Illuma; I will be sharing your body.”
Her voice was soft and sweet, but it did still have a bit of an echoic quality, like that of Shadow.
She eased her way over to me. Once fairly close, she bowed. Watching her hair fall, I kept on forgetting that it wasn’t real, it was part of her, but not actually hair.
Reaching out her hand, I didn’t seem to mind her saying my real name. I found myself mesmerized, my anger melted away. My hand floated up. Our fingers touched, and she began to slowly cover my hand like a glove. Soon, she encased my whole body.
“I am sorry; you will not be able to think for a little while. I will be borrowing your vessel. We will be one.”
My thoughts began to vanish, leaving my mind blank, other than the words she spoke, “I will be analyzing all of your memories and emotions you have had. I will be the new you, until the time in which I am to leave.”
I soon felt as if I had fallen asleep, no longer in control of my mind or body. Everything felt like a dream from that moment on.
I was Illuma.
“Hey, Shadow, what are you doing?” I ran over to Shadow. He was analyzing something in his hand.
“What are you looking at?”
Peering over his shoulder, I saw two necklaces. On the one was an embossed dragonfly. The other was a small replica of his left pistol. If I recalled correctly, his left gun was from his grandfather. I was unsure to whether it was his mother or father’s parent.
Clasping his hand shut, he put them into his pocket.
“Just some mementos.” he said hastily. Turning around, he looked at me, “What do you need?”
I stood there lamely. Abruptly, I got my attention back.
“There has been a sighting of Shadow near Dieth, a ghost town about a day’s walk north of Finalei.”
“Luckily,” Using mostly his right hand, he buckled his holster around his hips as he answered snidely, “We don’t have to walk.” Now, he put a strap across his chest to hold the saber.
Like he had been since the change in armor, he began to cough violently. This time I saw a slight bit of blood as he pulled his hand away. Before I could comment, he spoke, most likely so I wouldn’t, “Let’s go.”
He strode out of the building. After letting out an exasperated sigh, I followed.
“Was there any more information? What was he seen doing? Who was he with?” He drilled.
“He was seen with a woman with long black hair, the man wasn’t sure what they were doing. From what he saw, they were just talking and then went into the forest again. Maybe Shadow found himself a girlfriend.”
All I got out of him was a grunt.
“Jealous?” I teased. As I expected, he didn’t reply and we were off to find a vehicle. Robert was going to drive us.
“Are you sure it’s smart to just rush in without any backup? We don’t know what they’ve been up to,” Robert asked desperately.
“We are not rushing in.” Shadow declared. As I could tell he wasn’t going to divulge any more information, I did.
“We’ll be seeing if we can deal with the situation. If not, we’re running out of there as fast as our big old vehicle can. Then, we’re figuring out how to avoiding getting beaten up.”
“Alright, as long as Shadow and you don’t decide to be heroes, I’d rather see you cowards than dead.” he said in all seriousness.
“Yeah, same here.”
Being alive was quite enjoyable, and I was determined to see if I could still convince Elise to go on a date with me one of these days. It would be a challenge, but one I accepted.
Shadow didn’t say a word. Back to his grumpypants demeanor, he went into the vehicle and waited for us.
For Elise’s sake, I hoped Swift was alright. I doubted she was dead, but who knew what they were doing to her.
Jonathan was talking, but I ignored him. My mind was somewhere else. The wound in my side was still not healed. I had not showed anyone, and was trying to deal with it myself, but it had become infected. And, for some reason, the black suit I had to wear under the metal was making it worse. I was beginning to wonder what it was made of. A rash had begun to spread over my whole body. In some spots it had rubbed enough that my skin was almost gone. After today’s adventure, it would be. Luckily the bandages over my wound eliminated the material from touching it.
The whole situation was making me more irritable than usual. This was the first time I questioned whether I would win, or even live to see myself lose.
Ever since Swift had come, my luck had become rotten, making my skill moot. When we got her back, I would make sure she got sent back home. She had become a nuisance and an obstacle.
Now, a slight distance from the site the man had spotted them, we hid the vehicle and charily made our way over.
As expected, they weren’t there, but I did find one of Swift’s kelly green hair elastics.
“She’s been here,” I announced.
“How do you know it’s hers?” Jonathan asked as he grabbed it.
I ignored his comment, and quietly grabbed the sword from its sheath and stalked. They had to be near.
All three of us used trees as cover and began to search vigilantly. With success, we heard a few voices. Circumspectly, I tried to figure out where and who the voices were coming from.
I ascertained that one was Louie’s, another was Harkin’s. The distance muffled the words, making it impossible to figure out what they were saying.
Once close enough, I stopped and eavesdropped.
“Come on, she’s ready. And, I’m getting tired of waiting. I’m starving for revenge. If we take much longer, I might just have to start inflicting it already. I would so love to see some blood on my sword. Of course, I wouldn’t mind seeing it pool on the ground from a gunshot, that would be equally satisfying.” The voice had to be Harkin’s. I would recognize his slimy tone anywhere.
“We need to make sure she’s loyal. She needs to see us as the allies. Who knows if that wretch’s mind disobediently held onto any emotions after the medication? It should have stopped her body from producing the useless emotions that might mess everything up, leaving her advanced, like us. But, I need to do some more tests. The last thing we want is for her to turn on us. Yes, I am confident my concoction worked perfectly, but I must assure that.” Judging from the voice, it was Louie.
Harkin began to cackle, “Oh you clever toad, you got Shadow to tell her it enhanced her.”
“Do not call me a toad. They are repulsive and filthy beasts.” Louie said apathetically.
They began to walk off, and I followed, making sure I would not be seen or heard. A distance away, Jonathan and Robert did the same. They knew to keep out of my path.
“Illuma, it is lovely to see you awake and well. Is her body still serving you well? Any problems?”
As I glanced around the tree, I saw her. It was Illuma.
“None at all, her mind is quite intriguing. I have learned many things from her. Though, I do find it odd how, observing her mind and memories, she has changed so much within a few days before we became one. When I let her feel, she is much different. But, from what I have seen of your minds, I have assessed she was corrected.”
I began to cough loudly, wasn’t that perfect.
In moments, all eyes were in my direction. Behind the tree, they couldn’t see me, but they knew I was there.
“Stay here, I shall look for you.” The echoic voice belonged to Illuma.
In moments, she was in front of me, analyzing. I waited to strike her with my sword.
“You look much like Shadow. I assume you are Evan. May I see within you?” She asked politely.
She came towards me. Close enough that I couldn’t swing the sword; she gently placed her hand on my right arm. Her eyes matched the hair elastic. They were staring up into mine.
Louie and Harkin were now on either side of me, guns in hand. On my right was Louie, aiming towards my shoulder strategically. He knew my one spot of vulnerability from a bullet. He did design the armor.
“But they lied to him. This may be keeping your heart and lungs functioning. It helps your heart beat, which would stop without it. If it weren’t for Shadow and this, you would have died long ago. Your heart would have just stopped, unable to beat. Your lungs do not have the strength on their own to keep bringing in air. But, the black material is made of a substance that humans cannot tolerate for a very long period of time. It is Gheishure, a black substance that can be woven to appear like a thick plastic with rubber like texture.” Her voice was soft, but I remained skeptical. She was a creation of Louie’s after all.
“Illuma, he is evil, you must not touch him.” Louie said like a priest speaking to an altar boy. And like any good altar boy, she listened and believed them.
“I say, you should make him your first. Let him be the first bit of evil you smite.” Harkin said, as a smile crept across his face.
“If you wish, Master Harkin.” Her voice was empty.
She raised her hand. Her fingertips melted together, sharpened, and turned shiny and silver, like a blade.
“Wait. My dear, he is one of those that are meant for last.” Louie’s voice was as emotionless as hers: creator, like creation.
A few bullets flew towards Harkin and Louie. Illuma stopped them with ease. Shadow had never been that fast. For a moment she was unable to move from the vibrations, but much faster than Shadow ever managed, became mobile again, moving her arms back down.
“What about them? Are they to be saved for last as well?” She asked.
Louie responded, “Yes. For now, we must go. I think you are ready. As you can see, they have declared war against you, and you must respond against their people—much like a king, you target his nation, and you wait to decide what to do with him once you have won the war.”
“It is time. I will annihilate every last one.”
Right before my eyes, she began to grow. The Corvelon brothers ran. Harkin cackled the whole way. As she transformed, it was not a larger form of her, but a beast.
Like silver slime, her arms became legs, and her legs changed into those of a tiger.
My heart began to race. I couldn’t seem to get enough air.
An acrid smell like coins and blood overwhelmed the air. As it enveloped, my nostrils burned and a coughing fit engulfed me. Blood covered my hands, adding to the wet sweat on my right.
As she continued to grow, the trees bent like sheets of paper, crumpling beneath her large feet. They shrieked cracking and smashing into the ground. The crows and ravens that hid in the branches exploded from the trees, flying away as fast as they could.
Rain began to fall, getting thicker and thicker. My temperature dropped as I stood, staring at her becoming bigger yet, until her foot was close to as big as me.
She brought her face above me, breaking the tree that stood behind me like a twig. Baring her teeth, her face pulled and distorted. One of a tiger emerged. My eyes were glued, as my feet refused to respond. Fur grew from her whole body. The silver then slowly changed to orange, white and black. The bright colour burned next to all of the dull browns, grays and greens that overwhelmed.
A large roar reverberated, overpowering the deafening sound of rain. Illuma’s still green eyes were transfixed on me. As they did, time seemed to stop. All noises became blurred, inaudible to me.
The beast’s shoulders rose and fell, her breath moving my hair and tickling my arm along with the rain. But, if she was a living metal, why would she need air? Was she becoming more than Shadow ever was? Did she synthesize her own personal lungs, heart and organs so she could feel human? To respond the way she did, she must have needed a human. I knew Shadow couldn’t shape-shift the way she did without one. Was that where Swift was? Was Aria inside that thing?
In moments, she was gone, trees flattened along her path.
I stood stunned and frozen. As I came to fully understand the situation, my toes and fingers were numb. Jonathan and Robert had come from their hiding spots. They stared at me.
“How are we going to deal with that? That is a rather big problem.” Jonathan stated.
“We need to find Shadow, that’d be the only thing I could think of. Anything else, I doubt it would stand a chance. It being that big, I’d bet you’d need a lot of swords to stun it. And, who knows what you’d do if you even managed that. I’m thinking, we should get back-up, and then go find Shadow,” said Robert.
I began to run in the direction the Corvelons had fled. I would find him.
“Wait! Shadow!” Jonathan yelled after me.
“I am Evan, not Shadow.”
“Jonathan, you follow him. I’ll go and tell Soul what’s happening.”
“Will do. Good luck.”
He ran off, and I dashed back to the rover and began to drive as fast as I could, my windshield wipers flying back and forth. I prayed it wouldn’t turn into hail, snow or sleet—it was cold enough.
I would not let Evan kill himself. He had to learn: he can’t deal with everything on his own. Sometimes help is needed.
As much as I knew that the only chance we had for victory was probably Shadow. I hated the idea of that kid having to be a battery for Shadow. If something happened…
As I entered the first town, screams filled the air. Chaos permeated as everyone ran in every direction. Men, women and children searched for their families, as they shouted their names. Trying to decide which direction was to safety, they slammed into each other. The people scrambled up from the mud. Everyone was drenched, steam pouring from their mouths in bursts.
The thick grey clouds darkened the air, leaving dimness. Fog was thick in all directions, some dancing at people’s feet.
I was to kill every one of them. But, I wanted to learn, so I had a much greater plan.
From my feet, I expanded; much like the fog, I crept around everyone’s feet. Soon, I began to crawl up the many men, women and children, taking control of their minds and bodies. I analyzed their every thought and memory. I needed more knowledge. From one man, I learned how to be a doctor. Another showed me how to pick locks. Each individual had a different skill that I would have.
They were now all within my skin. If they were to die now, I would not learn what I needed, so I made little holes throughout my body so they could breathe.
I slipped into each house, looking at the small things these people had grown attached to. I wanted that feeling. I needed to find something I would desire like the baseball glove of one boy, and the doll of a girl. Maybe, if I were to find more people, and search more towns, I would find my object.
It was decided, and I was off to find another town. There I would learn more, and find my thing.
“Shadow, come with me. We have to stop her.”
Shadow stood with his head cocked to the side, eyes wide.
“If I were to stop her, I would be going against Louie. I am to stay here.” As he said it, his arms were crossed; it was a trick he must have learned when I first joined the military.
“Is he really the one you want to follow? You would choose him over me?”
“I can’t choose both?”
Shadow stood quiet as he stared blankly in thought. Uncrossing his arms he responded, “I do not know.”
“Shadow, I’ll give you some food for thought. Yes, you’ve known Louie longer, but hey, you’ve spent a whole lot more time with your bud Evan. You like him don’t you? And how long have you been feeling his emotions and such? How much have you seen Louie’s thoughts?” Jonathan asked as he walked up from behind, now standing next to me.
Shadow looked thoughtful, and then responded, “I have never seen his thoughts. I have not been allowed.”
“I think that might be a good sign that you don’t really know him.” Jonathan said as amicable as usual.
The wind was gusting as the rain seemed to fall sideways. I tried to ignore how dizzy I was beginning to feel. The wound on my side had begun to bleed again. My body was also being strained from continually carrying the weight of the metal armor and how the gheishure made the cold more severe on my skin.
“Jonathan, you are right.” Shadow turned to me, “Evan, I will help you. But, I will not destroy her. She is like me. I do not wish to be alone.”
He strode towards me. Standing in front of me, he placed his hand on my left shoulder. Like butter melting on a pan, his fingers seeped between the fibers of the shirt, those of the fake skin, between the plates of metal and then through the black suit. As his fingers touched my skin he looked distressed.
“He tried to kill you,” he said blankly. “He tried to kill you!” He roared.
Within moments, all his matter was encasing my skin once again, and the metal and black suit had been stripped from my body, leaving me with my military uniform and Shadow.
“I forgot how much I missed your mind.” he said triumphantly, “It’s business time.”
He stretched out from my left arm, grabbing Jonathan. Running like a river, we were off.
My mind began to slip out of the dream state. I even opened my eyes, but I saw nothing. Was I blind? To top that, my whole body felt as if it was in a sarcophagus, but I couldn’t even move my toes.
The sense that seemed to be usable was smell. So, I sniffed like my life depended on it. What did I smell? There was rain, and what seemed to be coins.
It was then I realized I hadn’t tested my speech. My mouth could move, I could talk, and this was amazing. So, I did the only thing I had left, I yelled out.
“Where am I? Someone help!”
The soft voice I knew as Illuma’s responded, “Hello Swift.” It let me be reminded where I was: inside Illuma. “Do not worry, you are safe. Nothing can hurt you. I am protecting you, like I promised to Louie and Harkin.”
“Physically yes, but if I’m in here much longer, I’m going to go mental. I can’t take having so little room, or being blind. I need more than this to be safe.”
She changed the subject, “I am learning. You people know so much. I want to know it all!”
“Wait, what are you doing?” I said in a panic.
“I am gathering people to learn from.” Her voice was as calm as usual.
“But, if you just gather everyone…”
“Silence, someone is coming.” Illuma interrupted.
“Shadow, what are you doing here? You were supposed to wait at the house.”
It was odd; I was beginning to feel things. They must have been emotions, and they were very strong. I was unsure which ones they were, but I would learn quickly. I didn’t have the time to deal with him.
I continued to run to the next city. My next destination would be Gitu, then Finlei, the biggest of the cities of Lithin.
“Illuma, you can’t do this! I know you want to learn, but if you take the time to actually learn by doing, and through teachers, it will last longer!” Swift yelled.
She had become a much angrier person since the injection. It felt good. The sensation was like a flame burning within, heating my core, and then a rush, giving me such energy. Maybe, if I were to decipher her brain, I could change her so she would see what I saw, or I could find a way to increase her anger.
I stopped at the outskirts of Gitu. This would give time for the people to be filled with fear, getting their emotions much more fantastic to feel, and for me to get Swift to change her opinion.
I let a part of me seep in through her pores of her head, then through her skull. I then began to use the skill I had gotten from a doctor and cognitive scientist and altered her brain.
It worked quickly. I could feel it. She had begun to understand me, and aided.
Now as I looked down at the many screaming and scrambling people, I knew it would feel so intense. Like the last town, I crept across the ground and slowly encased them all. I made sure to keep slow, as to saver every last sentiment. People were so lucky to feel emotion, and be filled with adrenaline. Oh, how I wished I could be one of them. Maybe, once I had analyzed them enough, I could fully synthesize one, letting me be like them. I could take organs and make them function. My body could be filled with the many different hormones and liquids that flowed through them. What if I were to figure out the chemical manipulation that human bodies did with such ease?
Faster now, I took in every one of them. I needed the answers. Grabbing them, I bumped into buildings, making them fall, and squished a couple others. As I reached for the last one, Shadow stood in front of me. But, he couldn’t stop me; I had the reflexes and mental ability of countless people. He only had one.
“Illuma, you have to stop this,” Evan said.
I just reached around and grabbed the last one. My speed was too much for him. He couldn’t even react. I then ran off. My next destination was Finlei.
It was better with Shadow, but my wound and rashes were still there. My cough wouldn’t go away. My whole body felt murky and my mind was slow. All sounds were beginning to be muffled, and everything around me was a large blur. It was as if I was submerged underwater, but it contained salt, making my wounds, nostrils and eyes sting.
Shadow directed my body to Illuma, but it used every ounce of my strength. All my muscles had become sore, and burned. As well, I had begun to lose blood. It drizzled down inside of Shadow, down to my toes. More of it came from my coughing fits. How much longer would I last?
All the soldiers that weren’t at one of Corvelon’s bases were gathered and off to Illuma, even those that had been here for only a little over a week and I had been training. I knew many of them had very little skill, and had tried to convince Soul to leave them here. I doubted they would be much help.
Soul was determined that all we needed were some well placed explosives, but I had my doubts, and if it did destroy the metal, I didn’t want to see them accidently kill Evan. Soul was careless enough, it could happen. He tended to forget that people were the same as him; he lacked empathy. That was probably one of the main reasons he had managed the post he did. Though, when he had first gotten it, he hadn’t been so cold. It came as he refused to pass on the job.
The rain thundered on the windows and the wind shook the shutters. Storms like this hadn’t happened in ages. We had been having a never ending dry spell. That was why the grass and lush plants hadn’t managed to revive themselves after the large war seven years ago, or even after the smaller ones in the last few months.
It was hard to see anything out my window through the dense fog. It gave an ominous feeling that made a shiver dash up my spine. Something was wrong.
As I stared at the water drizzling down my window, I prayed for Swift’s safety.
I was startled by my door opening. It was Louie Corvelon. His curls were flattened by the intense rain, and his light shirt clung to his skin, slightly transparent. The glasses on his nose were covered in rain droplets. Even so, I found him very nice to look at, but I couldn’t let my mind go there. He was one of the ones responsible for Swift’s capture.
“What are you doing here? Where is Swift? What did you do with her?” My voice was loud and stern.
“I can bring you to her, but for now, you need to get out of here. You are in danger, and need to come with me.” Even though his chest was rising up in down quickly, his voice was calm and measured.
“You can bring me to Swift?” I asked quietly.
“Yes.” He sounded confident.
“But how am I supposed to trust you?” I asked suspiciously, as much as I just wanted to say yes and follow him. I needed to find Swift, to see her safe.
“Of course, you shouldn’t trust me. But, you need to know, it wasn’t me who took your sister, it was Harkin. I tried to convince him otherwise…. Know that I am trying to help. I want you to be with your sister.” He sounded honest. I believed him.
I grabbed my coat and followed into the thick rain that quickly drenched me. Many strands of hair stuck to my face as I ran to follow him.
My mind was a frenzy of rage. A flame circulated and made its rounds through my veins. I was in so deep that I began to be the anger. Now, I knew, this was me. All these years, I sought who was me, and now, with the help of the lovely Illuma, I had it.
As she used my body I felt absolute power. This was all mine, all that she did, the intelligence she gained, the adrenaline that soared through my veins, the source of her power. Without me, she would be nothing. She had told me, once a living metal connects with a person wholly, unlike these pawns for knowledge, it was the only person. Without me, her movement would be slowed, and she would be without emotion, as much as she tried to gain it from these miserable souls. Each of them did quicken her, but without me—the core—they would be useless to her.
Illuma had told me about the true medicine they had given me. It was much greater, it helped me find myself. Rage was power. Rage was the soul being freed. I was rage.
As I engulfed each last human, I savored the rage that was blazing from Swift. But, I found I could not quite enjoy it the way she did. The adrenaline did not flow through me. But soon, it would.
Within me were now the people of every town of this country. It was time. I now sat in silence, analyzing their knowledge, examining their inner workings. I dove down into their very cells. What made them work the way they did?
As I thought, I began to see many little army men a distance away. Above me was a jet, dropping a bomb. What silly people. That would not hurt me, I ignored it.
It dropped, hitting my back. Every ounce of my substance began to pulse and I could not move. After the bomb had hit me, hundreds of bullets struck from every side, leaving me immobile.
Now I had to look at Shadow, who stood in front of me. Did he think he was better than me?
Harkin now came out from an alleyway behind Shadow, Thorin following him. In other words, I would win after all.
“Well, well, now that you have her unable to move for a minute or so, what do you plan on doing? I’m sorry to say, I am the only one with her weakness, but I do believe it’s Shadow’s too.” Finishing his sentence, he shoved a green stone into Shadow’s back, making him be forced away from Evan.
Evan was weak, unable to stand on his own and fell to the ground. This made a flicker of emotion. What was this? I thought they had gotten rid of all of the useless sentiments Swift’s mind had held, but here one emerged from the depths of her mind. It seemed undaunted by my edit to her mind, or the medication. She had sympathy and admiration for him. Her emotion made me feel the pain that Evan must have felt from his raw red face.
“So, any plans? Oh, and don’t try and shoot me and take it. Thorin here is very good at taking bullets. All you throw, they will do nothing.” Harkin said snidely.
He stared down at Evan in disgust. Rolling him over with his foot, Evan was powerless, practically dead. But, why did I care?
Starting at my toes, I began to be able to move again. I knew I had all the knowledge I needed from these people, and that I was told to kill them, but I couldn’t quite get myself to. They fascinated me too much. So, I did the only thing I could.
Slowly, each person slid from under my protective skin, all paralyzed from shock. They began to realize that they were free and scrambled to their feet. Harkin looked at me with annoyance and frustration.
Rushing around, the people reunited with their families, holding them tightly, weeping and kissing each other’s foreheads and cheeks. The sentiment baffled me. I hoped that once I tried to become human, I would feel this and be kissed on the cheek and forehead, they seemed to enjoy it.
Gradually, I shrank myself down, and then my body went back to its normal shape. I had torn the army uniform. From Swift’s memory, I had learned that it was not alright to be naked in public, even if I did not yet have the parts they hid. Soon I would, so I stretched out my hand. It slithered into one of the houses and grabbed a set of clothes.
Once on me, I could see that it was a dress with paisley and blue, pink and white flowers. It fit nicely.
I noted all of the gawking faces. Knowing the many people I had absorbed, I did not know which of their responses were correct. Was I supposed to enjoy it or feel embarrassed? Now was not the time.
Jonathan was nowhere to be seen, even though I had thought Shadow had grabbed him. I wished he was here as I tried my hardest to keep conscious. I was worried that if I were to close my eyes, I would die.
My heart and lungs were barely operating, and the air and clothes made my body sting and pound in pain.
Eyes slowly managing to focus, Illuma was standing as close as she could with Harkin holding the stone in his hand. She was looking at me. Was she worried?
“Oh, don’t tell me you feel some attachment to him. Can’t you see, he is just a piece of trash? There is no need to recycle him. He’s been used. It’s time to get rid of him.”
Looking around, no one disagreed. Everyone was staring at Illuma. They didn’t care about my life. Even little Riley didn’t give me a glance, nor did any of the thousands of more men and women. They were staring at Harkin with reverence. What was happening? I knew they didn’t know me, but even the man I stood in front of, trying to stop her from getting to him refused to even give me a glance. I was already trash to them. Recycling was with the past.
What was the point? I seemed to be the only with empathy left. Other than maybe Illuma, but I could already see that Harkin was about to deal with her too. She wasn’t willing to harm or kill anyone, therefore was no use to him. I began to let my eyelids slowly close. Bringing them together, I slowly relaxed.
“Evan! Don’t you dare give up!”
My eyes flashed open, it was Jonathan. Giving Harkin no time to respond, he tore his right gun from his holster and shot the stone from Harkin’s hand. Then, he ran as fast as he could and grabbed the shiny stone from the ground.
Shadow rushed to me and recovered me, protecting me from the elements, and helping my heart pump and lungs move. It wasn’t enough; I was still feeling the effects of the Gheishure.
Illuma stared at me, not saying a word. She was beautiful, but the blank facial expression was creepy. And, just the whole idea of Swift being in her was a little disconcerting. I should have been used to it from Evan, but that stuff never stopped being disturbing.
I pointed my gun to Harkin, and the stone towards Illuma. I couldn’t say how I was going to solve this. Half of my problem was kind of solved. Illuma just vanished in a darkened alley, splashing through puddles as she went. I knew it would be trouble later though. For now, I only had to deal with Thorin and Harkin. I shoved the stone into my pocket so I could focus on them. There was one thing that worried me the most, where was Louie?
“Trying to be a hero? I’m sorry, but I don’t see any way you can win here. Thorin is much stronger than you.”
In the corner of my eye, I could see him begin to slowly get up.
“But, he isn’t stronger than me.”
“Shadow! You have to protect Evan!” I yelled.
Luckily, he listened.
“Oh, someone has gotten feisty. I’m sorry munchkin, not going to happen. You didn’t seriously think that he didn’t have one of those stones too. And, you know what? I have an extra too.”
From his pocket, Harkin grabbed another stone, and ran towards Shadow, who backed away.
“Everyone, you saw that creature that went into the forest? You saw how it took you all out of your homes? Well here is one of those same horrendous creatures. Do you feel comfortable with the fact that two of them are free to roam in your cities and homes? That, they are able to get into your home when the door is locked?” Harkin preached.
The many people nodded, a few yelled and cheered.
“You would feel much better if they were gone, if they were not allowed in your country, wouldn’t you?” Harkin said, as he walked around inside the large circle.
The people cheered louder, more becoming vocal. A police officer walked forward in his blue dress shirt and slacks, badge attached to his black belt, and spoke, “We need them out of our cities, no, out of our country! I need to be safe!”
Another man stepped in front, “I agree, I need to be safe, my family needs to be safe. And, as long as they are here, we won’t be!”
Corvelon began to laugh, “Can’t you see? They don’t want you. You are no longer protecting them, you are endangering them.”
I decided to speak up, “Everyone, you can’t banish Shadow from your country, he has been protecting you for the last seven years. Without him, more of you would be dead!”
A large woman emerged from the crowd, “I would have been fine, I can protect myself, and my family. If these other idiots can’t do the same, then that’s their problem.”
This time, a small boy came out from between the many people, “I say we should get rid of him, he’s garbage now. There is no need to recycle garbage.”
“Everyone, just hear me out. He isn’t your enemy. I can’t say he’s your friend, but he has no reason to harm you. Did you see that other one? She just left. No one was even harmed,” I said, trying desperately to get them to start listening.
“There is always an enemy. And, who might that be? Well isn’t that lovely. We don’t know. Anyone here could be him or her.” Harkin asked satirically. The people didn’t seem to be agreeing with him, but not really against either. I guess this was my chance to be the verbal mastermind. Win against Harkin in a battle of words. This would stay in my book of awesome I had managed.
“Creating an enemy—that is what got us here in the first place. When enemies are created, that’s where conflicts start. Before the war of Jiouth, there was no difficulty with peace. There was no reason for conflict.”
Someone in the crowd yelled out, “But there was a war! There isn’t peace!”
I continued, “Yes, but the war is over. It’s time to repair the damage, reemerge from the ashes.”
“Oh, the phoenix metaphor? How cute. What a pathetic attempt. Of course there is still war! There will always be war. It’s human nature.” Harkin interrupted.
“A war doesn’t begin without a reason. Harkin here is trying to make a reason. If we let him, there will be a war. But, we don’t have to let that happen. We can replenish what we have. Like how seven years ago we began to merge all cities and towns, we can do something.”
“And what are we going to do, wise prophet. This is stupid! There will be war!”
The many people tried to listen, but the rain left them cold, wet and irritable.
Evan began to speak, “Jonathan. We need to get out of here.”
“Why?” I asked as I spun to look at him.
As the only illumination was from the streetlights, there was a slight orange glow to the air. Puddles collected on the pavement trying to find drain pipes, but lingered waiting for their turns. As I stood waiting for an answer I could see my breath. The rain slowly began to turn to snow.
He didn’t answer. That was one of his irritating traits.
Before I could even continue, the people all began to try and get into shelter: shoving by each other, scrambling, and all shivering. Sometimes, I asked myself, “What is the point?” Looking at Evan I only saw Shadow’s face. There was no way to know what he was thinking or feeling. I had become quite adept at figuring it out, but it still irritated me.
It was that moment that I realized; he was looking out for me.
“Duck you idiot!” He yelled. I did, and just in time. As I stood awkwardly, holding onto the back of my head, something shot by. I couldn’t tell in that moment, but as it reached the ground and emerged, I knew right away. It was Illuma.
“Harkin, I can help you. Me and you, we could very easily take control. We need only get to the hub.” Hearing her voice I began to wonder if she was beginning to be more human than robot. Was that scary, or comforting?
“Jonny, we need to go.” Evan said. He was right. There wasn’t anything we could do. All of the people were practically in buildings, hiding from the weather, and we needed to do the same. Plus, Evan needed medical attention, and soon.
“This is the old castle isn’t it?” I asked.
He nodded as he heaved one of the large embellished doors open. With a quick gesture, he motioned me in, and closed the door behind me.
The inside was enormous with large deep rich red draperies hiding windows all along the walls, and at the end was a large red and gold throne. As magnificent as it all was, it was obvious no one had lived her in years.
“I guess they aren’t here anymore,” I said, disappointed.
“No. I believe they were killed seven years ago.” He said as he began to the other end of the room, towards a door on the right.
“I used to always hope they were still alive, just hiding away in their palace until the right time.” I said, more so to myself.
As he spoke, he turned around to look at me, pieces of hair stuck to his face, “I think we all wished for that.”
I walked over to catch up with him. When I caught up, he continued to walk.
“Why did he bring Swift here? It’s an odd place to choose.”
Once we got into the room he locked the door behind himself with a key. With the click my heart rate rose. How did I manage to get myself in the worst possible position?
“Keep calm. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to do anything to you and there are towels on the side table. I just need you not to meddle, and was getting you away from Harkin and Illuma. Knowing Harkin, violence was imminent.”
I looked back. It was a small little hallway before another room, and like he said, there was a small aged wooden table that had a small drawer and a cupboard with old handles that were rusted. Towels sat on top of it. My gaze went back to him.
“You’re trying to convince me that you’re saving me?” I sniggered. “Last time someone tried to save me the situation merely got worse.”
“It ended well enough. You did get back to your house.”
He was right. I guess I would hope that it would all turn out well again.
“Are there any spare clothes around here, and a room I can change in? My clothes are drenched.” I asked.
“Yes, this way.” He said as he marched past me, showing the way. I quickly grabbed a towel and followed.
Reaching out his arm, he motioned towards a large bedroom with a king sized bed covered in red sheets and a large window covered in more red curtains.
“There are clothes in the closet. You’ll have to see if you can find anything you can use. And, there is a lock on the door. So, if you really need to, you can lock it. Personally, I have no desire to intrude on your privacy. And, feel free to sleep. It’s getting pretty late.”
After entering the room, I closed the door, locking it behind me.
I then began to search through the large walk in closet, sifting through the many exquisite dresses, hoping to find something that I could get into without help. It seemed hopeless until I came across a night gown. Cream with intricate lace, it was exquisite.
I slowly peeled of the wet clothes and dried myself with the large white fluffy towel. The cold bit and I quickly put on the night gown. It was surprisingly warm, but not enough. Searching through the closet, I looked for a jacket or an equivalent. The best I could find was a fur shawl. This was definitely the house of royalty—no cheap sweat shirts or pants to be found.
Easing the door gradually open, Louie was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he wasn’t lying after all: could he have actually wanted to bring me somewhere safer—but why?
Power would be mine. It had to happen, it was destined. But, I would change the next part. There was no way I would lose my place upon the top of society. I was a leader—it was where I belonged. Jonathan was silly to try and change these unchangeable citizens. I doubt they would absorb even one of his silly words, they were all ludicrous. He was most definitely wrong, war was imminent; it always was. There was no denying its inevitability.
Through the forest on the dirt trail puddles had formed, splashing under my feet, accompanied by a skiff of snow. The annoying rain had drenched my overcoat and the snow frosted the shoulders. Holding the large collar blocked my ears from the many gusts. Thorin’s flashlight seemed close to useless in the dense fog. We were lucky there was a definite road and I had gone to the palace many times before. It had been my main hideout.
Louie would be there. After getting warmed up from this wretched weather and a good rest, the plan would be in motion. We would use the power of chaos and greed. Maybe we’d even make use of all seven sins: wrath, gluttony, lust, pride, sloth and envy. They were very useful. All the pathetic gullible twits would learn that they needed Louie and me—and if they didn’t, well, they would need the social order we created, or at least the social chaos.
It was the next morning and we’d finally got ourselves reassembled and got a doctor to try and see what they could do about Evan.
“Will you be able to save him?” I asked desperately.
“Maybe, if you let me work!” Dr. Rodreiph exclaimed, hurriedly doing nothing, or at least it seemed to me.
“Get out of here! We’ll send someone to tell you when you can see him again, whether that be barely, fully or not alive. Now, go!”He said as he shoed me out of the building.
Unwilling to do nothing, I went to Robert. He was training the recruits, readying them for whatever Harkin and Louie next planned to do, even though he knew they would be helpless against Illuma. As he barked at them, you could see he was trying to cling onto any hope left for victory.
“Robert, what is our plan? Where do we think they are? Is there anything at all I can do?”
At first he tried to ignore me, but I continued to pester until he finally responded.
“I’m sorry lad, until they launch their next move, we are powerless.” He said.
“There must be something we can do, there is always something.”
Looking rather ponderously he muttered to himself, “Could the stories be true?” He then proceeded to bring me away from the group, motioning Klaus to take over the training. “You may think me crazy, but I think I know what will happen. Come with me.” he said as he brought me to his cabin.
Entering, it seemed like a museum, or a house of a historian: surfaces and walls covered in ancient scrolls and writings. Most of them were in strange symbols, most likely old and ancient Lithian.
“I didn’t know you had your own museum here in the camp.” I joked.
Ignoring me, he went and dug through the pages on his desk until he came across the one he was looking for. Pulling it from his desk his eyes glued to it, he walked towards me. As his eyes went to me, he made me look at the page.
“This is an old prophecy I once came across when I was in Lordenburrow, a city long lost. People haven’t lived there for many hundreds of years, not since before the invasion of Motesians.” Seriousness furrowed his brows and brought down the corners of his mouth as he spoke.
“And what does this so called prophecy say?” I asked.
“Well, I’m not sure. People have guessed and have speculated, but it’s in ancient Lithian, lost to all but the royals, and who knows if any of them are even still alive. Most have deemed them dead, but me, I still keep hopeful.” His eyes were piercing.
“So, what use is it right now then?”
“Well, if you look at the imagery, there are bits that resemble things that have happened, like the giant beast for one. Looking at the next few, it seems things will only get worse, but here, there is a picture of a human with a raven head and wings who seems to be banishing the demons. If we were to find this raven, we may just find the answer.”
“Do we have any ideas where we might find this raven?” As I said it, I began to remember something else, like this ancient script, there was something else that could help: the strange code on the back of the note from Louie.
“Are you okay?” Robert asked.
“I was just thinking.” I then grabbed the note from inside my shirt, opening it up and passing it to him, I asked, “Do you think you could decipher this?”
Quickly snatching it from my grasp his eyes scrolled over the many weird symbols that were placed, seemingly at random on the page.
“It is rather odd isn’t it, but I might just be able to.” He said, eyes not straying.
He dramatically flipped the page and read the note on the other side. As his eyes came up from the paper, he looked at me suspiciously.
“Why haven’t you given this to Soul?”
I laughed nervously, “Good question.”
“Lucky for me you didn’t, but you know everything and anything has to be at least shown to him.” His tone and demeanor were serious.
“So, what does it say?” I asked, trying desperately to change the subject.
“Well…” He turned it back to the strange code and continued to speak, “It seems to be mathematical equations. From what I see, if I were to figure out the code, it might just make a message. But what really caught my attention is that there is some small ancient lithian text at the bottom. I would say it was written by a different individual. The style of lines is quite different. I might start with that, seems much easier to decipher. And, it shows me that there might be someone out there after all that knows the ancient language.”
All of a sudden, an alarm began to shriek. We all knew what that meant: war.
My heart began to pound. I had dealt with rebellions, but never had I been in a real war. “Everyone gather in the east field immediately.” I could tell it was Klaus’s voice.
Seeing my shock, Robert spoke, putting his hand on my left shoulder, “Stay strong. I’ll make sure you’re okay.”
I looked up to him, eyes wide. “I can’t do this. Evan always said he’d be at my back…”
He grinned. “I know Klaus and the others give you a hard time, but you’ve come a long way. You can make it.” With that, he left the cabin.
I just stood there for a few moments.
“Evan… when I come back, you better have not died on me.” I muttered to myself.
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