Authors: Mike Simmons
A tear ran down his cheek and his lower lip quivered. “Do as you must, witch.”
As he spoke, Ivy smiled. She focused her attention directly at him.
In an instant, Brandon saw a flash of something behind her. It looked as if the wind had shaken a tree in an odd way. A large branch rose in the air as it got closer and smashed and broke over Ivy’s head and back. She wailed out in pain as she toppled into the dirt. Edward stood there, only a foot of wood in his hands, staring at the remains of the branch in total surprise.
Like lightning, the Kella’Dune swooped its left hand down and violently scooped up Edward off the ground. It screamed and roared furiously as it reared its right hand backward, fingers clenched tight in a fist, and moved to smash Edward in between.
“Nooooooooo!” Brandon screamed as he reached his hand out, as if he could stop the beast. Coolness washed over him like a tidal wave, sweeping away all emotion, tearing down fear, and eliminating conscious thought. It started with Brandon’s sword hand, instantly chilling his fingers. It ran like wildfire up his arm, into his chest, down to his legs and other arm, and finally through his face. His mind felt like ice, cold and clear. It morphed into a galaxy of purity, clear as a polished diamond, and spacious as the endless skies above. Everything slowed down, and Brandon soaked in everything around him. He could feel the tufts of hair underneath his skullcap lightly fluttering in the wind. He could see the floating bits of dust and plant particles in the golden rays of the sun that broke the treetops. He could smell the freshness of the Paraline. As he looked at the Guardian, its right hand froze motionless above Edward.
He peered at the beast, in a slice of time, now frozen and manipulated. In his state, Brandon could see two different images above the Guardian’s head, each floating as if trapped within their own bubble of soapy water and spinning slowly around his head. The bubbles shimmered in a million different colors. The images within, although only watery and transparent, were clearly depictions of faces. The first, a black cowled creature with glowing green eyes. A red-haired woman filled the second one.
That is Ivy!
Brandon’s eyes shot over towards Edward. He had images above him as well; five of them. In the first, an auburn haired man with a golden crown, and another showed an older woman holding a pie. The third one showed an armored man in shining silver armor with glowing white hair and then a grey robed woman with a mannequin’s face, no facial features at all. When Brandon looked at the last bubble, he stared into the image of his own face, except the jagged black line that ran from the top of his head down to his chin, like a lightning bolt that split his face directly in half.
The Guardian’s hand crept towards Edward, and Edward’s eminent death. Brandon did not know why or how, but he reached up, fingers outstretching to the spot above the Guardian’s head. With a wave of his fingers, the two bubbles above the towering beast shimmered and then faded, washing away to nothing.
Brandon closed his fingers around his palm as if grabbing ahold of something unseen. His fears about Edward’s impending death flushed to the surface of his mind. The anger of the injustice, segregation, and death caused by Aurora and her crowd turned clear, flushing his face. He could not allow the Kella’Dune to kill Edward.
He reached the end of his rope, and even his hopes were failing. As he clenched his fist, an image flickered above the Kella’Dune.
Guardian, help me. We fight for the light.
First, a bubble appeared and then an image solidified within; a man’s face, split in two by a jagged line that ran from forehead to chin.
Brandon’s head felt lightheaded and the strength he held onto disappeared. His vision wavered, becoming unclear and unstable, as the earth around him trembled and he collapsed. All went black.
Ivy jerked to her feet and stared in puzzlement at the Guardian, who lowered his right hand while he looked at Edward in pure confusion.
“Kill him, now!” Ivy screamed, clenching both her hands in white-knuckled fists.
The Guardian looked at Ivy and set Edward down gently. When Edward’s feet were on the ground, the giant beast stepped in between Edward and Ivy.
“What are you doing?” she screamed, about to cry. “Kill him! What are you doing? Fine! I will kill him myself!” She raised her hands, igniting them both in a blaze of hellfire, as she focused her attention on the Guardian.
The Kella’Dune reached wide and quick, sweeping Ivy up in his right hand as she screamed out in pain and frustration. The air flashed as she released the hellfire blaze into the face of the Kella’Dune. The Guardian roared out in searing pain as he grabbed her upper body within his left hand, stopping the burning stream of blue fire. Its face, neck, and chest were seared black and red, blistered and bleeding. He had her lower half held tight in his right hand, while burying her upper body in his left hand. Like wringing out a wet dishrag, the Guardian quickly twisted its hands in opposite directions, ripping Ivy’s body completely in two, as he tossed the two halves into the woods.
Edward gasped as he watched the two halves of Ivy Arclight’s body tumble into the woods. Edward could not get the sound of her ripping body out of his ears; the sound, like cracking open a walnut shell, would never fade from his memory.
Edward looked around, taking in the entire area in front of him. Twenty paces ahead, Donald Granitefist laid in a muddy pool of blood. His chest plate, crushed and battered, encased his body in a space too small for his size. Behind Donald, a dead Kella’Dune Guardian lay still with its head mashed and distorted. Blood splashed the long and trampled grasses and pooled in the dimples on the ground. Brandon rested in a motionless heap off to Edward’s right.
“Brandon! No!” As Edward screamed and took a step towards Brandon, the Guardian turned and knelt down, gently picking up Brandon in his hands. Edward froze, staring cautiously at the beast, but to his surprise, the Kella’Dune turned towards Edward and slowly outstretched his arms to him. The Kella’Dune Guardian had an immense head and even when not showing any emotion, its face conveyed a look of violent strength and aggression. It raised its brow suggestively, holding Brandon so Edward could check him.
Although cautious, Edward pushed aside his worry so he could feel Brandon’s neck; a heartbeat, weak and fading.
“Did we win?” Jasmine said, rubbing the bump on her head as she woke up. She did not notice the Guardian until he turned to look at her, but once he did, she squeaked out a high pitch peep, putting her hands over her mouth. She caught Edward’s eye, who mouthed “It’s alright.” She held her eyes wide though, nervous about the giant six-armed monster.
“He’s not too doing well,” Edward whispered.
“I’ll fill you in on the details later, but I think he’s dying.” Edward said, as his eyes rose again to meet Jasmine’s stare.
It had been two weeks since One left the sanctuary of his home. He had an average height and average build, if not a little on the skinny side. He had no body hair and wore simple grey wool robes. Although the robes had a large cowl, he did not wear it, instead it rested lazily on his shoulders. His general appearance did not bring attention to him, except the brilliant color of his green eyes. They were the color of a perfect emerald if held to the sun, light beaming through every facet and wave. His eyes were nothing special to him; they had always been that way, and the God’s created him that way. He walked with casual grace, not in any rush, but also walked with an unknown purpose.
Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six had wished him well, simply nodding to him as he left the shaped stone walls of their home. He began his journey, a journey the others would repeat, one each, each serving a specific purpose. Nothing told them when to leave or where they would be going, but they did know. They called it faith.
In his travels, One walked in whatever direction he felt looked right. In the first week of his trek, he strolled upon the Paraline River. He had the choice of crossing it by boat or walking along the shoreline, north or south. He did not choose the boat because he enjoyed his walk and that seemed a distasteful choice. He smiled as the wind and fresh air surrounded him. He chose his direction and walked, nodding to himself with the pleasure of his choice.
He carried no weapons and no pack filled with supplies. Destiny guided his journey and he believed that destiny would take care of him. As he walked, he gently kicked a small round river rock into the water. It splashed in the shallows, scaring away the minnows that fed along the shore. One giggled to himself and kept walking; a few paces more and his stomach growled. He had not eaten since the morning. With only a slight turn of his head, One could see the red fruit of a raspberry bush.
“Destiny,” he said, as he smiled. After picking a handful of the fresh berries, he continued.
One purposefully walked the beach, fulfilling his destiny as he saw fit. Three rugged men sat along the shoreline in a poorly scad camp and perked to attention as they noticed him. The first man to notice, a beefy unshaven man, wearing a worn fishing hat laced with holes, stood up and stepped quickly towards One. The other two men, less heavy but with equally trodden clothes, followed immediately behind him.
“Well, well, well!” he said with a huge, gap-toothed smile. “What do we have here? A traveler? How nice! How nice!” They surrounded One now, in a spaced semi-circle, unusually close to him.
The thick man grabbed his beard around the chin and stroked it eagerly.
“Well, does our gracious traveler have anything to donate to a few unlucky souls? C’mon, now, you must have something you can spare?”
One looked at the man and smiled turning both palms to the sky. “I’m sorry, friend, I have nothing, no coin, or food. There are some ripe raspberry bushes down the stream a bit, though, I would be happy to show you where they are if you are hungry.”
The rough man’s smile faded as he shook his head back and forth. “Well, I’m afraid we’re not hungry, well, not for food anyways. We are looking for coin!” He grabbed One’s wrist and with his other hand he pushed the sleeves of his long robe upward looking for jewelry. Another man did the same to his other arm and then patted his body, feeling for weapons or bags of coin.
One let them search, patiently smiling, relaxed and calm. “As I said, I have nothing.” He looked into the lead man’s face and gave him a genuine smile.
Anger flushed across his brow.
“No! No! This is not going to work! This does not make me happy!”
One shrugged politely.
“Okay, now you are just pissing me off. If you have nothing for us, then I’m afraid that…” he did not finish his sentence as he hit One in the belly. One gasped as he curled over, gripping his middle. The man laughed sarcastically. One’s smile had disappeared, replaced with calmness.
The man punched him hard in the gut again and then hit him across the temple with a right hook, knocking One down to the ground. Blood ran down One’s cheek from the half inch cut on his upper brow. He spoke, calmly.
“Taking out your frustrations on me, physically, will not change the fact that I have nothing. If I had anything but my robes, I would surely have shared it with you.”
The man nodded to One, attempting to look as if he understood, but he made his sarcasm obvious. He held out a hand to One offering to help him to his feet. One reached out and took his hand. As the man pulled him upward, he quickly reached over and wrapped his other hand around One’s thumb and snapped it backwards. The snap of the bone made the two men in the back cringe. For a brief moment, One’s face revealed the discomfort he felt, but he regained his composure and calmness promptly. Now on his feet, One cradled his broken thumb in his other hand and looked at the three men emotionlessly.
The rugged man took a step back. His brow dropped in worry, concerned that One did not even scream when his thumb broke. One turned his attention solely on the man in front of him.
“What’s… what’s the matter with you, mister? You
or something?” He did not know how to read the situation with One, at all.
“As I have said before, you will get nothing from me, for I have nothing to give. I would have offered you my friendship, but that offer has expired. Are you finished?” One asked gently.
The man in the front just nodded as he back away. The other two already ran away.
One casually continued his walk along the shoreline, not looking back towards the men. As he did, he closed his eyes momentarily, not much longer than a slow blink. His broken thumb jerked inward and then popped. He rolled his thumb around freely and smiled.
If he wished to, One could have stopped those men from bullying him. He could have prevented them from hurting him. The power he wielded within could have erased their entire existence; no one would have found them and no trace of them would have been left. He contained a power not of this world, and they were no threat to him. One did not need to prove his power to them, so he did not, and now here he walked, and all stayed in balance. His destiny led him true.
Days past as he walked, casually. Finally, One decided that he wanted to leave the riverbank. He turned left and headed into the beautifully green and lush forest, aspen and birch trees held up the canopy like living columns of wood and bark. A few minutes into his walk, One realized that his destiny played out before him.
A clear pathway led forward, trampled grasses and freshly broken brush indicated the path had been recently traveled. One smeared the soil in between his thumb and first fingers, the moisture still stuck within. As he peered upward, he noticed a massive six-armed creature a hundred spans down the trail. It had grey-blue skin and engorged muscles peaked and popped from every inch of its massive body. It had an equally large head, hairless, but its face and chest appeared burned. One could still see light wisps of smoke rising from its wounds. A unconscious man laid in its arms, and another older man stood next to them, checking the unconscious man for a pulse.
One rose to his feet and walked with his normal cool grace towards the people down the way. Edward looked towards Jasmine.
“Do you think you could find us some ginger, or cardamon, somewhere within this place?” Jasmine stared at Brandon, but nodded slowly. “I can do my best.”
“Then hurry, girl, hurry!”
As Edward spoke, the Kella’Dune grunted and stood up straight, quickly pulling Brandon towards his chest with his upper arms, flexing and clenching his four other fists as he spread his feet apart in a stance fit for battle. He looked behind Edward. Edward turned around and Jasmine took a step back in alarm.
One stood in front of them. He smiled, as destiny had once again fulfilled its promises. He had found whom he looked for and he made it just in time. He spoke calmly as he looked at Jasmine.
“The roots will only temporarily disguise his illness. Your friend is very sick, and if you do not let me help him, he will die.”
The Guardian grunted angrily again, keeping Brandon protected against his chest. Edward had one hand back on the Guardian and his other hand out towards One, signaling him to not come any closer.
“Who are you? And what do you know of his sickness?”
“I am sorry, friend, I understand your concern and weariness in this situation, but I assure you, your friend is in dire need of my help. I am sure you have checked his pulse. His forehead should be unusually warm; his body soaking in sweat, and his sporadic pulse should be getting noticeably weaker. If you lift his eyelids, you will see his eyes rolled backward in his head. In a few moments, he will start to shake. It will start in his extremities, his hands and his legs, and it will move into his body. The more it moves, the more violent his shakes will become. His skin color will begin to pale as the blood rushes to his organs to fight the sickness. He will be become completely unresponsive. Once the shakes have entered his chest, his muscles will tighten so tight he will not be able to breathe and the contents of his stomach will be expelled. His shaking will cause severe trauma and his organs will start shutting down, one by one. It will be a very unpleasant experience for everyone. We are running out of time, please, let me help him.”
Edward’s eyes were soaked in worry. He looked at One, judging him and then looked to Brandon. Brandon’s arm hung limply between the fingers of the giant Guardian, and as Edward watched, his fingers started to shake.
Edward looked back at One. The pressure of the situation hit him in full. If this man told the truth, then what choice did he have? If he did not telling the truth, how did he know about Brandon’s symptoms and how could he predict the shaking?
One spoke again, calmly, but urgently. “Please.”
Edward cracked. “Fine! But I warn you,” he yelled at the man, pointing and shaking his pointer finger at him, “if anything happens to Brandon by your hands, you will face my wrath!” One simply nodded.
Edward turned towards the Guardian who looked at Edward as if waiting for a command. Edward nodded at him and with a fierce snarl, he opened his arms and lowered him towards Edward. His other four arms still held clenched fists, indication of his readiness to fight at a seconds notice if he had to.
“May I?” One asked, holding a hand out towards Brandon.
Edward nervously nodded again.
One closed the five steps towards Brandon cautiously, not paying attention to anyone around him. The look on his face indicated the care he took, as if Brandon might explode if he touched him wrong.
One reached towards Brandon’s face with his left hand and gently placed his thumb on Brandon’s forehead. Brandon’s head twisted, like he fought against the placement of One’s hand. Mirroring his left hand, One moved his right hand upward, cradling Brandon’s head and placing both thumbs together in the center point of Brandon’s forehead. Edward noticed One’s thumbs rested right on the bottom point of Brandon’s red star tattoo.