LIKE THE WIND ("AVASHCÍN")
BY RAYNE AVALOTUS



A new darkness is preparing to encompass all of Santharia. Born within the depths of the Hèckra, found within the dwarven caverns, it has finally found the oppurtunity to unleash war and destruction across the land. Farms will burn, towers will crumble, and thousands of innocent souls will fall in bloody battle. The soul with the ability to stop this apocalypse from swallowing Caelereth is that of one young elven girl. Join Rayne in her journey and discover what it means to be true to one's heart...


C
HAPTER II
PREMONITION

s morning light dawned over the hills and a bright sunlight warmed the grasslands, Rayne slept peacefully in the shady alth’ho. Breezes scented with a faint ocean smell wandered in from the south, swaying the tall blades of grass from side to side. She felt a light nuzzle on her cheek and squirmed lightly, shifting. The nuzzling stopped for a moment then began again. She waved her hand and it stopped, only to begin once again.

Slowly she opened her eyes and was a surprised to see something standing over her. She quickly moved away to find the creature that had nuzzled her was nothing less than a female starback. The doe stared at her with large, ebony eyes. Her small head seemed to tilt slightly, curiously, and Rayne blinked in utter confusion. She was suddenly afraid to move, not wanting to scare the gentle creature. She glanced to the side to see another starback, this one a fawn, and was a bit shaken up.

Starbacks were a creature she had read about in many of her books. Usually they were so timid and would flee if they felt in the least bit threatened. These seemed so curious of her, though. She backed a little more and slowly got to her feet. She approached the doe that had nuzzled her and reached out to touch her, but the doe seemed to have all but lost interest in the elven girl and was walking away such that Rayne only touched her back ever so lightly.

The doe seemed to care very little. She continued walking and the little fawn skipped merrily behind her. Rayne hesitantly put her bag on her shoulder and followed them. The doe seemed to be moving southeast, but the direction didn’t interest her as much as the starbacks themselves. She had never come across one before. This is what she had escaped to see: The beautiful creatures she encountered in her books and stories. They were so much more glorious in real life than they were in those dusty old pages.

Rayne spotted something on a rock not too far away. It was small, rounded at first before it ventured to steadying itself on its back legs and lifting itself up, sniffing the air. Rayne stopped and pointed, saying with enthusiasm: “A tarep!” The little rabbit dashed off the rock quite suddenly with blinding speed and disappeared into the grass. The deer she followed looked back at her with annoyance: a look that seemed to question if all humanoids were as silly as she. She blushed slightly. “Sorry,” she said, as though the starbacks could understand her at all.

It seemed that she followed them for ages. She observed their elegant bodies and graceful movements. They looked like she imagined poetry would: sleek with fluid motion. The day passed with few encounters save those of a tarep or another starback that happened to be passing by. Several times Rayne wondered to herself why she was following this deer, but not being able to find any reason not to, she continued on.

The sun began to sink lower and lower, departing behind the horizon and spilling colors through the sky. Painted scarlets and bring oranges leaked through the fabric of heaven, deep cobalt soon replacing them in the sky. A myriad of stars began to show through the darkness as a moon became illuminated in the sky. Rayne, tired with walk and in need of sleep, hardly noticed. It wasn’t until the deer stopped that she glanced up in time to watch the two sit down in the grass, waiting for the coming of morning.
Rayne sighed with relief and plopped down on the ground. She lay back on her back and her eyes met the starry night. She quickly sat up again, shocked at the beauty of the sky. The stars were so many, glittering in the sky with glorious splendor. Her lips parted in awe. In the forests, the trees kept the whole sky from being seen. Here, however, in this plain, the sky stretched out until infinity. The moon reflected in her cerulean eyes, which were large with childlike wonder. She had read that there were approximately 3000 stars in the sky at one time. She had never believed it before, but now it was hard to argue what was right in front of her.

She wondered what Thyron would say if he could see them, shining brightly through the blackness of the night. Rayne smiled to herself slightly, sadly. She suddenly missed him and reached for the pendant he had given her.

It was then she felt the other necklace around her neck and she glanced down. A pentagram lay on a cross, wings spreading from behind it, an indigo crystal shimmering in the center: a joyful and yet painful reminder of her past. It was so long ago it was almost like it wasn’t hers, that it was a different person who’s brother had been killed by another, who’s mother had died in the Thaelon forest, who had lived with light elves. Was that her? Or just a character in one of the books she had read?

She clutched the necklace tight and looked up into the sky. It was then she saw a few stars shimmering through, shimmering bright. She whispered to herself. “The Blindfolded: the constellation of Seyella… Goddess of Destiny.”

The days seemed to pass like hours, and Rayne was quite content to follow the deer, who were very much flexible to allow the little elf to stop and rest when needed. Often times a little creature would wander by and Rayne would flip through her books to identify the creatures. She filled her sketchbooks with dozens of pictures of little bugs and plants and strange little creatures sneaking through the grasses. The deer had become her travelling companions, until one day they seemed to all but vanish.

One morning came and the brilliant rays of the sun pulled Rayne’s eyes reluctantly open. Despite her desire to get more sleep, she had been sleeping for quite some time, and it took her a moment to put everything together. Her eyes squinted with the bright sun and she looked around for the deer she had followed the day before, but found them to be nowhere in sight. The elven girl stood and looked around, but they had gone, leaving the prints of their bodies in the alth’ho grass.

Rayne sighed. She was again on her own: tired and hungry. She sat on the ground and searched through her bag. Her hands fished through the bag to produce a good-sized pouch. Opening it up, she poured some of the contents into her hand. Small red berries rolled into her palm. Vinterberries. They weren’t very filling, but at the moment they were all she had. Many of her other resources had been gobbled up in the previous weeks following her departure. It wasn’t until she began eating them that she began to realize how hungry she was and it was painful to keep herself from eating more when nearly half the pouch was empty.

Rayne stored the pouch away and sat there, wondering what to do. She had little food and no idea where to be headed. She stared in front of her, in the grasses when something caught her eye. She reached out and plucked it from the stem, looking at it. She smiled, nearly laughing. It was a doch nut. Her eyes focused more closely on the bush around her and found a plethora of these little nuts. They were everywhere! She began to pick them as fast as she could with both hands, piling them into her lap.

More! She fished through her bag and took out what can only be described as a large square bag. The contents appeared to be books: spell books and reference books and notebooks. She stuffed these into her primary bag and began filling the bag that had once held her books with all the doch nuts in her lap. Crawling forward, she began to pick more, putting them into her bag gleefully, eating a few as she did.

However, it wasn’t long before the saltiness of the nuts got to her and she became thirsty. The sun beat down on her and seemed to make Rayne all the more desperate for something to drink. Again her hand fished through the bag and pulled out a bottle of water. A sigh left her before she took a small drink. Conscience reminded her what happened to the vinterberries. After putting the bottle away with the fat bag of nuts she had collected, she looked up and around. She was a bit surprised to see a large mountain rising up from the ground. No, not a mountain. A volcano. A shiver ran up her spine and something came over her: a strange, dreadful feeling. She shook it off, whispering the volcano’s name: Hèckra. Its head resided in a ring of clouds.

Rayne looked about, and something in the east seemed to stick up from the grass, appearing in a light purple color, faded from the injérá’s acid light. She moved closer and closer until she was able to make out the walls of a house, a modest door and a little path moving eastward, away from her. The house’s shingles were a sun-dulled blue and, in the back, a neatly picketed fence enclosed a modest little garden. She journeyed closer and closer, more taken by the house’s color than anything else. Rayne found it strange how the building seemed to simply stick up out of nowhere.

As she drew closer she saw a man sitting outside the house, taking in the kind sunlight that moved through the crisp clear air as his pale hands carved away at a piece of meldarapple wood with a glinting silver dagger. His hands were large and gentle, scarred and yet somehow welcoming. He was old, and his hair was white with strands silver as mithril and seemed wistful as clouds atop his head. He had large, bushy eyebrows and a beard running cascading down from his chin and above his upper lip. He wore faded red bandanas about his head and wrist. His clothes were worn and old, and his boots were tanned with age.

Rayne watched in a curiosity that seemed to defy practical definition and led her further towards the house. The man sat there, carving away, the distinct signs of age coming in to view. The wrinkles about his eyes, mouth, the blue veins running through his strong hands all were revealed as the distance retreated back behind the elven girl. Rayne chewed her lower lip out of habit, her pace slowing more and more as she approached. She took in a deep breath and called in friendly greeting when he was close enough to hear. “Dáin artánhé.”

The man hardly stirred, almost as though not to hear her. Was he ignoring her? Or perhaps her voice had been carried by the wind in some other direction than forward? He was old, too, and his hearing may not be what most men’s ears were. She realized that he was human, then, and was grateful that he had, or hadn’t seemed to, hear. He probably wasn’t familiar to the elvish tongue with which she spoke, and she corrected herself as she called out to him again, softer, for now she wasn’t too far from him. “Hello, good sir!”

He looked up, the sunlight seeping along the features of his face once hidden in shadows. He looked kind, gentle, strangely wise and yet, at the same time, a bit senile. He seemed to glance to her direction, but his eyes, which were light blue as though the sun itself had washed them of color, hardly seemed to see her. He glanced down again to where his hands carved away at the stone. Rayne approached cautiously now, towards where he sat. His voice was husky with age as he replied, “So you have come. She told me you would.”

The response startled Rayne, set her back and left her a bit shaken in some respect. However, she had come this far, and she was hungry and thirsty. “Hello, sir. My name is Rayne, and I was hoping that I might-“

“Gain food and shelter for a time, for you have many more leagues to journey, and this journey is a perilous one indeed. Yes, it shall be yours.” His response was quick and yet careful, and his words did not cause him to falter in his carving. He turned the piece of wood in his hands, the shavings drifting softly down to litter his pants and chair with soft white pieces.

“Yes… I… But… I cannot accept such services without granting you something in return. Perhaps I may clean or cook. I see you have a garden, and I will help tend it for you. I think you for your generosity to so willingly give me the fruits of you home, but I much repay you.” She pleaded with the man, for it was against her morals to take without giving anything in return. But now, she no longer approached, finding herself only a few peds from where he sat with his knife and wood.

The old man smiled and chuckled with aged charm and mystery. “She did not leave out a detail. She said you would say that. Ah, but if you so insist, I will let you tend my garden. The lyth’bélls and caroots may need some tending.” He looked up at her with his washed out eyes, and Rayne realized that he could not really see her through those eyes, that he could not see.

“Sir, are you blind?” Rayne inquired, then blushed realizing how rude she must have sounded. She shrunk back a bit, but before she could apologize the man spoke up.

“Blind? No, I am not blind, for one who is blind is unable to understand. One who is blind does not know. I have seen the world pass by through phases and colors. I have seen the grace of the Gods and heard their secrets, their plans for the destiny of men and elf and dwarf and orc and gnome and all the other creatures, great and small, that reside on this grand plain. I have seen the darkest fires and the deepest cold, and mountains that rise from the earth and lakes that nourish the valley. I have seen life and death and know mine. I know you and the path on which you journey, the delight or tragedy waiting for you. I have seen and I know. No, I am not blind. I am sightless, but not blind.” The man smiled with thin lips and carefully brushed the shavings from his pants and the seat of his chair, slowly standing and turning to walk towards the garden. “Come. I will show you where the tools are.”

“Sir, what is your name?” Rayne asked, almost choking on her words.

The man glanced back at her as though he could see her slender form through his unseeing eyes. “Tybalt Almerine.”

Rayne worked the rest of that day, making sure the lyth’béll plants remained clean and healthy, sometimes washing the dirt from their deep green leaves or making sure their purplish-red fruit remained healthy and clean. She picked those lyth’béll’s that seemed ripe, as well as the onions and shallots and chives that could be used for the night’s meal, which she had convinced Tybalt to allow her to make. Being sightless as he was, it was likely that he had not received a good meal for quite a while. The garden also contained a few meldarapple trees growing in the back from where she was able to pick some meldarapples to add to the taste of the night’s meal, and perhaps even the morning’s. She watered the plants just enough to keep them happy. She had noticed that many of the plants showed signs of dehydration and hoped a little extras water would do them good.

When the sun threw long shadows across the garden through the picketed fence, Rayne rose from where she had been working. The time seemed to pass quickly, as her find had been preoccupied with Tybalt’s words. Her hands and clothes were now dirty, but she dared not complain, merely brushing the dirty from her cloths and washing her hands as she watered the last of the plants. Walking into the house, she was immediately captivated by the carvings that decorated the shelves, the cabinets, the drawers. Little wooden horses and birds and other such animals decorated them. Cloth dyed in intricate designs on the walls hung brilliant designs, pictures of men on horseback, of beautiful women.

Rayne’s careful eyes caught Tybalt. He sat on a chair near the table, carving away at his wood, the shavings falling down into a bucket he had positioned below him to catch the chips of wood. The elf watched him a moment, wondering why he lived alone. Wasn’t there anyone else here to live with him? Rayne assumed that he had, at one time, had a wife, perhaps one who could see and was able, who helped him cook and clean. She spoke to him. “I’ve gotten some fruit and vegetables for dinner tonight.” He nodded lightly, but did not speak, seeming to be in deep thought.

Rayne approached the kitchen sink and counters where she set down the pickings she had collected. She worked silently, keeping to herself as she worked, almost fearing to bother him. She searched out the kitchen, through well-carved cabinets and drawers to find useful utensils, foods, and seasonings. Pots and pans were all discovered hiding somewhere, sometimes stored in strange and unusual places, but, managing to find what little she needed, she cooked up the evening’s meal even as the delicate scent of her work floated through the air. The warm air combined with the sweet aroma seemed to bring Tybalt out of his private musings. His voice, though soft and husky, filled the room, sweet and thick as maple’s sap. “You are a skilled chef,” he complimented.

Rayne chuckled softly and smiled, not taking her eyes off her work. “You speak too soon! You have yet to even taste my cooking! How do you yet know I am a skilled chef?”

“I know,” he replied, a hint of mystery lingering in his voice. “I know.”

Rayne glanced back at him briefly as she filled two plates with food and brought them to the table along with utensils and cups of water. Tybalt had taken his bucket of shavings and set it to the side, and now his hands searched for the fork with which to eat his meal. As Rayne’s eyes caught his hands searching for it, she carefully moved the fork to his hand. He happily picked it up and looked up, as though to look at her, with a kindly smile on his face. Rayne had to smile. She wasn’t sure if this man was speaking truth or if he was simply a bit crazy, but he certainly had a grandfatherly charm to him.

Rayne sat down on the other side and whispered a hushed prayer to Avá before eating, and Tybalt mumbled a prayer as well. The first bites of the meal were eaten in silence, but light conversation began as the meal continued. Rayne tried almost desperately to learn more about who this old man was, but his words were equivocal and his past, present, anf future remained enigmatical.

The meal ended and Rayne began to clean up, collecting the dishes from the table and putting them near the sink. After freeing the dishes of grime and putting them away, she began her scrubbing of the floor, which seemed to be in need of some cleaning. With her stomach full, she seemed faster at her work and her mood seemed a bit lighter. She worked on, and Tybalt looked up occasionally, as though he could see her working away as she was at the floor, bits of grime and dirt on her arms and face, strands of hair falling in elegant disarray out of the ponytail she had put them in. Rayne hummed as she worked, pushing her rag across the floorboards.

The man smiled at her. “Your voice is sweet but hardly heard, and there are words which long to be put to such a tune. Sing, child, sing!”

Rayne smiled and softly began singing “O Lady Fair,” an ode to Avá, in her own native tongue. The music filled the room and, as the night grew darker, the melise-wax candle burned ever brighter on the table, spreading light across the room. The little wooden sculptures upon the intricately decorated shelves and tables seemed to watch the two curiously. As the tune ended, a comfortable silence fell among the occupants of the room.

Tybalt nodded and smiled. “Yes, you have a voice as sweet as the glitra’s.”

Rayne smiled, flustered by the compliment. “Thank you.”

“Stop you now. You have done enough work for the night, have well earned your keep and your food.”

“But what about - ...”

“No, no… you need not do anymore. Though… I have one request, one favor to ask of you.” His unseeing eyes seemed to look at her with a desperation, a strange, unutterable sorrow.

“What do you wish?” Rayne cleaned the rag and her arms and face, though her ear listened to him closely. She was wiping her arms and face free of water when he replied.

“Will you read to me?”

Rayne looked at him curiously. Did he jest? “Read to you?”

“I have been without my sight a good many years, but can faintly recall the joy I received from reading stories, about, through books, traveling to places beyond my wildest imagination. I remember the adventure and excitement. But I cannot see the beautiful words now, cannot escape to that world as I once did. So long have I been trapped within my dulled reality, a reality that I am both knowing of and partially separated from. Please, dear Rayne, tell me a story and let me escape as I once did.”

Rayne looked at him, almost sadly, but nodded gently. “Yes. I will tell you a tale. I have brought many of my books along with me.” She walked to her pack, which she found right outside the door towards the garden and began shuffling through it. “It seems you have suffered greatly during your life, and there is a story of a girl who suffered, too, but who overcame it and rose into fame and glory. Her name was Katya.” Rayne pulled the book. “Katya the Just.”

The night was filled with story and tale, spun in the shadowy room. She told of the lightelves, of the beautiful Queen Jenefra, and of all the troubles she fared. Tybalt sat at the edge of his chair, hardly seeming to pay attention to his carving. A simple tavern girl had become a queen! It was breathtaking. It was then that Rayne closed the book and sighed to herself. Tybalt smiled broadly. “Incredibly indeed. The story is familiar, and yet I still find such joy in it.”

“I am glad,” Rayne replied, smiling and putting her book away.

“You will experience such adventure.”

“What do you mean?” Rayne asked, glancing at him.

“There is still much for you to experience, and there are signs and guides you must follow. You must be strong, for the road ahead is perilous.”

“I don’t understand.”

An aura of mystery, of intensity, emanated from the old man. “Listen, listen. The time is coming. You must follow your heart, for you have been chosen. She has chosen you and you must listen, you must follow. She will guide you, guide your heart.” There was a pause and the sound of carving, shipping, filled the room. “This is my last carving. I will not greet tomorrow’s sun nor that morrow’s moon from this plain. You are to take my horse and whatever food and water you can hold. My horse is out in the barn behind the house. He is no great stallion, but young and quick, he will get you to where you are to go. Move south-ward, towards the Ancytharian Sea. From there you will find others who will guide you. Your journey has just begun, dear Rayne. Sleep you well tonight. You leave early in the morn.”

Rayne retired to bed restless, plagued by thoughts, musings, curiosity yet unsettled in her spirit, but the continuous sound of wooden chips falling outside her room lulled her to sleep.

Rayne felt the sunlight pour through the window and she rose from the bed she had been allowed to sleep in that night. She dressed and walked out of her room greeted by the kitchen and the table upon which she had, last night, eaten upon. Now the table was empty save a wooden sculpture made of the wood Tybalt last night was carving. The beak was apparent, and the wings were defined. Each feather had been so greatly detailed, each given individual care. The form of an owl sat there, and Rayne stared at it a long moment.

“This is my last carving.” The words echoed through her mind. She rushed into Tybalt’s bedroom, or at least what she believed was Tybalt’s bedroom, but it was empty. The bed was made, probably not slept on the night before. Rayne rushed outside, but could see nothing but grassy plains all around, everywhere she looked. She walked somberly back into the house and sat a moment at the table, staring at the owl carving, which stared wisely back at her. A sigh left her and she stood, grabbing a few meldarapples, which she ate as a breakfast before she began, as Tybalt had told her, filling her back with food. She walked into the house once more, looking longingly at the owl, then left the house, not to return again.

Rayne did as she was told, her bag slung over her shoulder, walking to the back of the house where the stable stood like a shack. The elf curiously peered inside the stable, walking over straws of dried hay. She heard the sound of a horse snorting and came across a rather giddy young stallion. He was brown, with a brown mane and hair and a white sock on his front hoof as well as a white snip on his nose. The horse already had water and a bag of lyth’bélls and meldarapples hanging on either side of him, against his brown flanks.

Rayne walked around the horse, debating how to get on. A saddle already sat on his back, with stirrups hanging down, but Rayne had never ridden such an animal, though she had watched others do it. It didn’t look so hard. She moved one foot into the stirrup and pulled herself up onto the horse, glad that the girth was tight enough such that the saddle didn’t move. After getting comfortable on the horse and balancing her weight a bit to make the horse’s travel easier, she lightly squeezed the horse’s sides with her heels.

The horse neighed and began an almost immediate canter, dashing out of the stables, Rayne quickly grabbed the reins, assessing herself and the horse and the direction in which they were head, but the horse seemed to know the way. He galloped away from the house, through the waves of grass, under a vast and azure sky. The young elf glanced back to Tybalt’s house, to where she had sung as she worked, to where she had read him marvelous tales and listened to his husky voice tell her of what was to be, but when she looked back, it was gone. The garden and stable wasn’t there, and the faded purple abode was no where to be seen. They had all but vanished.

Rayne began heading southeast. If she could move around the volcano she might make it to the Ancythrian Sea, an area she had always wanted to see, as many of her books recorded the remains of animals in the area. Something about that volcano, though, was frightening to her. She wondered if it could be the things she had read about sephets, a snake-like demon that would tear their victims apart before eating them. No, there was something else that plagued her about that volcano.

Rayne walked her horse until sunset, then continued by starlight. She was weary from the walk of the day, and yet, for some reason, she could not convince herself or the horse under her to stop walking. Sometimes it seemed she would look up and find a different scene than the one she recalled seeing only a few moments ago. She reached the conclusion that her mind must be falling in and out of consciousness. When the morning’s brilliant rays fought through the dark night, she had fallen asleep in the high grasses next to her horse. She fed the poor horse, offering it her water. It worked far harder than she, and under the blazing sun, she could not help but feel sorry for it under its furred coat. It wasn’t until noon that she boarded the horse and began on again, taking sips of her water all the while.

What days or weeks had passed were lost on Rayne’s mind. However, time began to show on her. She became rather thin and her skin cracked from dehydration. She had used most of her water and food for her horse, not wanting the poor beast to get sick. Even under the blistering sun that would have tanned her skin, she appeared pale. Her supply of lyth’bélls and meldarapples was near gone and she dared not eating the doch nuts, as she knew she would only grow thirstier, and she was very careful to regulate her intake of vinterberries. Then one night her vinterberry supply had run out and she would have cried if she could have spared the tears. Still, she moved on, her horse at the pace of a slow walk, through the night, praying to Avá for help.

It wasn’t until the sun was high in the sky and she awoke in the tall grass that she realized that she and her horse had fallen asleep. She yawned. How far was she from the Ancythrian Sea? She looked up wearily and looked all around, still atop her horse. By the location of the volcano she could tell her where she was and looked out at her desired direction, though now the tip of a forest slightly crowded her view. A light wind hit her face, wandered through the now tangled strands of her hair. Something bright glinted there not too far away.

The weary little elf wakened her horse, her eyes squinting as she looked forward. She gently squeezed her horse’s sides and he moved forward. However, she increased his pace when the realization of what it was hit here. She only hoped her eyes didn’t deceive her. However, as the glint grew she slowly began to see the cerulean. Before she knew it the horse was running in a canter, for he, too, saw what was there and longed for it. The lake grew bigger and bigger as she approached it until it seemed to reach from the southern horizon to the eastern horizon: The Ancythrian Sea. She leapt off the horse and fell to her knees on the bank and splashed the water on her face. Cool drops ran down her neck.

She lay back on the bank and pulled out the bag of doch nuts and began to peel them and eat them as quickly as she could, feeding some to her horse whilst he grazed upon the grass that flourished around the water. She was so hungry. As the sun began to get low she undressed, finding some safety in the darkness. In the silvery water, under the pale moon, she bathed the past day’s filth away. She then crawled on to the bank, wrapped herself in her cloak, and fell to sleep.

It was like floating through a thick cloud. No end or beginning was visible in the eerie gray mist. Everything slowly turned darker and darker. It was frightening, but when the blackness cleared she wished so to return to it, for as the darkness melted away the horrid odor of death hung in the air. The blood of a thousand men or more covered the valley before her; crimson tears falling from blades of grass that combined made the valley itself appear scarlet.

Men lay in the field motionless, killed in ways immoral and in no way kind. Some were cut down the middle in a jagged cut, reaching from the top of their head and through their torso. Others were cut in half through their middles, suffering greatly before they died. Others seemed to have had their entrails pulled out and spread across the ground, while other’s brains dripped from their fractured craniums like oatmeal. Some men’s eyes were gouged out or lay with their tongues severed. Some were missing body parts and random limbs were scattered about in disarray.

Elves, dwarves, and humans alike littered the field and as gruesome as the scene was she couldn’t escape the horror. Rayne tried to close her eyes but even there she saw the pictures. She felt as though she might vomit. She turned her head away only to find that it was all around her. Her eyes seemed desperate to find something living among the dead. Her heart stopped for there among the bodies she saw Thyron’s face, his eyes still open, looking to the sky. His upper body and lower body were disconnected, and his intestines slipped out of him like a huge worm.

Tears formed in her eyes, her hands covering her mouth. Rayne swallowed hard, her heart dropping down to her feet. It was almost too much to handle. Her mind became light and fuzzy, and she closed her eyes and shook her head to keep herself from falling into unconsciousness. Her head turned away to find something else.

Suddenly a tall, hooded figure seemed to be coming closer to her. It floated there, still adrift in the bloody scene. He walked over the bodies as though they were nothing. Rayne’s eyes caught the red glint of an oontrom crystal set in a gold necklace around his neck. She felt her own necklace against her chest as the cross in which a pentagram and crystal were placed began to burn.

A large hand reached for her and she screamed a soundless shriek, but could hardly move, much less escape. His hand moved around her neck and she burst into a violent struggle, but the grip only tightened. A great wind, seemingly out of nowhere, blew back his hood to reveal a hideously scarred and disfigured face. His eyes were a frightening placid white. At first she thought he might be blind, but no, for there was no other way he could have found her and navigated through the rotting corpses.

The man had a beard and mustache, and the black strands of his hair were mid-length, but his face and size told her he was somehow human. She starred with large, cerulean eyes, for never in her life had she seen one so hideously frightening. His arms were strong and he was bulky with muscle. The oontrom crystal glittered dark and evil.

Her necklace began to burn hotter, but somehow the heat didn’t affect her, didn’t hurt her. A sudden burst of light came forth and struck her captor. The man released her, stumbling back. She gasped for breath, her chest heaving. The dark man laughed, then, his voice raping the air itself with its cruelty. He spoke, then, “Soon I shall be birthed into the world. Then not even your dreams can protect you.” He laughed again and suddenly the scene melted away.

Blackness surrounded her and a white light wrote these words:

Darkness glows in crimson; evil melts in its own fires.
Born in the dwarven caverns, carried to the Ximax spires,
The crystal desires destruction of every living being.
Unknown are the vindictive beasts that it will surely bring.
Thee alone doth carry the strength and seed to its fall.
Thou must heed thy heart and heed thy destiny’s call.

Rayne’s clothes fell away save the two necklaces that hung about her neck as the lighted words formed into one huge ball of light, then dove inside her. She was suddenly warm and her hair lifted from her back, shoulder and neck as the necklaces lifted off her chest. It was an extraordinary feeling: a power within her stronger than any force she had ever felt before.

Then the scene faded to sweet blackness.

 

Story written by Rayne Avalotus View Profile