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Awakening - a Last Hero Story

Updated on May 13, 2019

Authors Note

Awakening is a new spin on the original Last Hero story and looks to better create interesting characters, dynamics between said characters and a truly powerful story. The Shadow is darker, and the light needed more than ever. The depravity of the human heart is on full display as is all the might of the enemy that only seeks utter ruins and despair.

In this remake of the story, the plot is largely untouched. However, there are more tie-ins to books later in the series and more fluid fight scenes. The protagonist is everything I meant for him to be, and the struggles far more real feeling.

My hope is that you will enjoy this new story and will be left drooling for the next book in the series. Of course, I'll drop teasers along the way to wet your appetite!

Last Hero Book Cover

Book cover
Book cover

Chapter 1: Awakening

A blur of blue, green and pink melted together and nothing seemed to make sense. He blinked his eyes hard several times trying to focus on the haze of colors. His eyes felt sore and focusing them proved difficult. Soon enough however, the colors began to separate in blotches, then distinct patterns. He blinked hard again, finally making out the sky with a plain of thick grass beneath, dotted with myriad of daisies.

The place was new to him having no recollection of it. He tried to move, only to find himself struck with infant like strength, his muscles quivered against the weight of his own body. He fought for composure and attempted to remember how he made it here… Nothing; an emptiness devoid of anything. Just primal instinct, not even so much as an echoing of an internal voice.

A deep fear crawled through him as he wondered aloud, "Who am I?"

The words came out naturally, without any need to contemplate how to say them. He realized that despite his lapse in memory he must retain some basic knowledge. He decided against thinking on this as he felt the urge to move again. It was an insatiable, an almost painful motive to stop being still; yet he had no idea what drove him to feel as though he could move.

Attempting to move this time caused a sudden burst of strength to fill his body, terrifying him momentarily. Although painful at first, he felt joy as he watched his arm rise into the air. He could move. Strength still flowing, the man slowly sat up and took in his surroundings - an endless field of pink flowers; a stain among the otherwise barren grassland stretching beyond imagination.

With great care he brought himself to his knees and wobbled to his feet. Having lost his balance, he again took in the scenery, this time on his stomach. Unwilling to give up he tried once more, creating a wide base with his knees. The man wobbled to his feet, leaning forward with arms stretched out over head as if to pull himself up using air alone. Slowly he rose, fighting the gravity that seemed to laugh at his attempt to defy it. However, gravity lost this fight, for he stood proudly, being fully erect.

Looking about he noticed only one thing, "The flowers. . .where did they go?" He asked the gentle breeze, which carried no response.

The plain was now empty, just grass dominating every inch of its territory: it was so thick that the dirt it was sewn in saw no light. Moving his foot forward in a way that could hardly be considered a baby step the man moved through the field. There had to be other people about, I could not possibly be the only one around. He thought to himself as he took bigger and faster steps. In the back reaches of his consciousness he wondered what would stir such a thought. Likewise the thought also stirred within an emotion of loneliness.

Moving through the grass seemed futile; there was nothing over the horizon and no tracks behind him. He looked up for the sun, trying to think where he had last seen its position. Alas, he had not taken note of such a thing, and now he noted that the sky was as void as the field he stood in. There was in fact no sun, no source of light.

The man glanced down at his feet finding he had no shadow, as the whole place appeared to be evenly lit. Not even the underside of his foot cast any darkness upon the grass. He tried to shrug it off as he continued walking.

Contemplating, he tried to remember who he was and how he managed to make it to this place. The attempt was met with sharp spikes of subduing pain. He gripped the sides of his head and screamed at the sky as faint images danced in his mind. Though the images were indistinguishable, he felt as though they were not his memories.

The pain subsided, leaving him in a crumpled heap against the soft grass. Between heaves of air, he slowly made it to his feet again, warily continuing onward; being purposefully sure to keep his mind clear.

Padding through the sea of green the man now thought about how easy it was to walk. He nearly laughed out loud at how he had struggled so hard before. Had enough time passed that such an early memory would seem so distant to him? He fought, trying to think about how long he had been traversing the strange land. Hours perhaps? Maybe a day or two… could not have been more than a week. These thoughts and more made him wonder if time was just in his head.

"SLAE!" A voice boomed from all directions, startling him.

The man spun around, trying to find the source, but all he could see was grass; the endlessness of it was sickening. He tired of being alone, having no memory of anyone, including himself; he was feeling lonelier now than ever.

"Hello?! Who are you?!" He managed at the top of his lungs, but no one responded.

He thought hard on the word ‘slae’. It seemed odd and yet for reasons he could not explain, the word was familiar to him. Not only familiar, but as if it was a part of him. It was as if the word ‘slae’ belonged to him. He fought for answers on how could he know that? But he did not want to cause himself pain again and breathed it away.

"SLAE!" Again the voice sounded, this time shaking the very sky.

With that, he made up his mind; until he learned otherwise, he would carry the word as his name.

Slae, spinning about, screamed, "I am here!"

No one was to be found, but before Slae could take another step a voice whispered in his ear, "Come to me." The voice was that of a female, and the warmth of her breath was felt on his ear.

Her voice, unlike the voice from before, was soothing, carrying an aroma that overwhelmed his senses: never had he smelled anything as sweet – He was sure of that, despite his lacking memories.

Slae turned, stumbling backwards at what his eyes took in: a vast ocean, as infinite as the plains themselves. His toes curled to a new sensation of sand, with the appearance of pearls and running from the grass to the endless waters.

The ocean's sky was as different from the sky over the plains as black is to white. Clouds churned and broiled, wresting for control over the grey sky. Silent lightning flashed in purple and orange, breaking through the clouds in mighty clashes. Along with the turmoil of the sky eventually came lightning that pierced the water's surface with thunder so great it caused the ground to tremble.

Large waves rolled from afar yet the shore was calm. Slae, stepping toward the waters, caught a glimpse of his reflection. He was very tall with grayish tanned skin. His eyes were large and nearly solid black; the only thing darker was his hair that streamed down his bare back. He was naked, however unbothered, for he had no recollection of ever being clothed before. It almost felt natural to him. His muscles were wound tight about his frame and his body completely hairless.

Slae moved in toward his image, his mouth gaping. Something seemed out of place, but he could not quite put his finger on it. This was what he looked like, yet he had no memory of it.

"Who am I? Please you know who I am… " He sounded desperate, “Tell me… Wh-who I am." Slae stammered, at first, then shouted at his reflection, "Tell me who I am!"

He brought his fist against the water and wrenched back his aching hand in surprise. Despite the loose retention of the surface it felt solid when he struck it. So solid in fact that not even a ripple was formed.

Peering into the water again he gaped in awe, how can it be solid? Then a thought of realization hit him - his teeth were missing. Just a solid black void filled his mouth for a moment and then a light formed therein. The light was great among the darkness, and growing in size.

Slae leaned forward, his heart pounding, quickly recognizing the light as a ball of dazzling white flame. He tried to pull away only to find his own reflection gripping him with a great strength. His eyes widened, feeling as though his whole body was being held by a massive grip, a strange magic holding him in place. Twisting hard Slae struggled to escape without success. His image moved toward him, breaking from the water; its mouth wide open, displaying the great ball of fire. Slae tried to yell in panic but his voice was struck silent. The reflection closed the distance as Slae squirmed violently. He kicked and flailed his arms, frantic to break free.

In a flash Slae went face first into the waters, his head held down. He opened his eyes to a bottomless ocean and in its place were visions of unimaginable death and destruction. Entire nations of people being slaughtered by an unknown force, shredding their flesh apart, as cities toppled and fell into the ocean and ground. Even entire planets could be seen, cleaved in two and wiped from existence and Slae, even in this trauma, could not help but wonder if these were his memories.

Breaking free, he flopped to his back, drenched, he crawled backwards to the grass. The blades of grass were sharp against his hands and prodded his back. Turning about he peered at silver spikes taking place of the once lush green plants. A needle-like pain drove up his spine in frenzy while images danced in his head. Like before, all the colors melted into one as he succumbed to darkness and then nothing.

Light; bright and glorious flooded over everything. Even through the tightly closed lids of Slae’s eyes.

A heavenly voice spoke, "Look upon me."

Slae opened his eyes, leaping to his knees with hands in a defensive position, “What was that?!”

The voice spoke again, “Look upon me, child. I will make all known to you.”

Slae then noticed the source of the splendor and did indeed look upon it, finding the light to be even brighter than he imagined. Despite its luminosity it was not blinding. Instead the light was pleasant to look upon. As his eyes adjusted to see past the light, there was found an angel of great splendor. Her long golden hair hung about her, moving gently with the ocean breeze. Her eyes were piercing and blazing-blue and forced all darkness to fall before her.

She would be as naked as Slae if not for white cloths floating about her, never touching her glowing skin. Great transparent wings that shimmered many colors, stretched as far as Slae could see; hugging the ocean that surrounded the tiny island.

The island was made of white sand and at the center were blood red bricks that encompassed the Angel. She sat in grandeur upon a throne of air that yielded several inches between her and the ground. Slae stared at the bricks, for he could not look into her eyes. They burned something deep within and created shame.

"Hello Slae," The Angel began, "My name is Quweaign, the Angel of Light. Bringing you here was not easy, nor is it easy to keep you."

Slae struggled for his words, "Whe-where is. . .here?"

The Angel smiled and gently hushed Slae, "Come and kneel before me, for now I will awaken your mind."

Slae felt heavy as he moved; something in the light weighed down on him. He stood, struggling against his own will to fall and bury his face in his hands. Tortured and humbled he stopped a couple feet from the heavenly host.

He looked up for a moment and gazed into her eyes. They were large and beautiful, but this was far from his mind. Time had stopped, his skin tingled, and he drowned in her brilliance. Nothing seemed to matter for a moment. Then her hand touched his shoulder. It was strong, despite her feminine physique, and pressed him to kneel. He held her gaze as she placed the same hand on his head.

Slae could hardly keep his composure as a sensation overwhelmed him. The air thickened and lightning pounded the ground. He could feel knowledge he did not have before, yet none of it appeared to be of personal memory. Unexpectedly a powerful burst of energy ruptured from the great Angel's hand sending Slae into the water rimming the island. The Angel remained unharmed, however. Though the shock of it caused Quweaign to tremble slightly only to regain her complete serenity a moment later.

Slae dropped to his hands and knees before her and spoke humbly, "Angel of Light, I know things now that I did not before, but I still do not know who I am."

Sighing, the Angel looked sorry, "Slae, I seem unable to fully restore your mind. It pains me greatly that I cannot tell you who you are, for I do not fully know." She looked down in thought then back at Slae, who was in great despair.

He was a bit shocked by her response and queried, "How can you not know?"

She responded, "I found a stray child on a planet whose name is Slae. I know, because that is what you told me."

"Do you not know anything else about me?"

The Angel frowned, "I shall unveil to you the things I know but first I wish to show you something of great importance."

Slae stood and stepped forward, his mind struggled to comprehend why she wished to torment him with having to wait. He wanted to command her to tell him now but knew it would be futile. Being lost in thought and in self-pity, Slae had not realized how close he was until the Angel’s hand rested upon his shoulder.

"I wish for you to see a couple of items at my disposal." She pointed to something Slae had not noticed before.

It was a twisted and gnarled rod of black wood that grew into a hand. The hand was blacker than the wood and its nails jagged. Within the palm of this hand was a large crystal ball with three distinct gray smoke-like swirls.

"These are ethereal spirits of an evil past. I hold fast to them, because they hold a secret that is not contained in any text." She paused, looking lost in thought as she pursed her lips.

Behind all the light Slae could have sworn he saw a single tear spring from her eye and carve its path down her cheek.

She spoke again, "These evils are from before this Universe's time.” The Angel was slow to explain and paused to explain another thing, “I must apologize, Slae. For you see it has been a very long time since I have spoken to anyone. This has made me quite anxious.”

Slae nodded in understanding and the Angel continued with her story, “The spirits belong to great sorcerers of their time, having dabbled in evil they brought an entire universe to its knees leaving but a few survivors. Their fate was total annihilation of their life, however the evil energies surging through them refused to let go. It was but three, not even powerful beings, who destroyed everything…and only one steadfast being to stop them." The Angel then pointed to another orb, this one was different.

This orb shone with purity but looked dim in comparison with the light of the glorious being, who once again looked sad.

"This orb is not that of any spirit or being," She began, “it is all the good the universe has; a path of light that fewer follow today than yesterday. I have tarried in sadness as its light diminishes. A dark force weakens the light, I have seen it.” Her glow was less scintillating and for a moment he could feel all her sadness.

The mightily raging storm too had lost its luster and a light rain fell upon them.

The Angel stared deep into Slae's eyes, as if searching his soul before continuing, "These orbs represent the choice between good and evil. While the choice may not always be clear, yet to not act against evil is do evil. To not act in good conscious is to be void of virtue. Yes, while it may not always be black and white, what we do will determine what is in our heart. Your memories are important, and while they can shape you, how you choose to act moving forward will become what is in your heart." She looked toward the sky which cleared in an instant.

Slae played at the ground with his feet, still feeling lost, even feeling as though the Angel may be as lost as him.

She sighed, "You must understand that what I know will not aid you. Yet I shall relinquish my knowledge nonetheless. You ought to know that you are not alone. Within yourself there resides another. He harbors an evil I can sense, and will likely make himself known to you soon enough."

Slae furrowed his brow, his confusion furthering as he thought to his reflection earlier, but before he could say anything she went on, "I felt that he carries no memory of you, or of himself. He is as lost as you are. Though, you were not always like this. I did this to you for a purpose that seems impossible now.”

"What exactly did you do…?" Slae's words trailed off.

"I did what I was to do. I found you just as you were supposed to be. Powerful, and empty enough to be filled. I was to fuse you with another into a single being, of which it is said he could hold the universe within his hand."

She pursed her lips as she thought for a moment, "However, you did not come out the way I had envisioned you would. You are not a fused being, but one vessel carrying two persons… Rest assured, you are the original in your real body. Though, it matters not, as it will not change the path already set before you. I know this, because regardless of the outcome, there is only one who could stop it.”

Slae’s confusion only endured as he questioned the Angel, "How is my path set for me? What am I supposed to stop?"

She smiled as she explained further, "Yes, some destinies lay in wait for the one whom seeks to grab it, others are required to find theirs. Even so, few are predestined even before the beginning of time. You are-"

Suddenly the ground moved violently, as if dodging some unseen force. A rupture zagged across the sky and everything began to grow out of focus.

The Angel of Light smiled at Slae, as if oblivious to the changes around them, "I am sorry, our time is over. Now you must go to the planet Earth, where I took you from. There you shall learn of the path awaiting you."

"Earth?" Slae began, but was quickly hushed.

"Earth, yes. It is in great turmoil and upon its fate hinges the future of the Universe. This particular planet is special with many a battle for the Universe being been won within it." She smiled at Slae expectantly.

"Heroes…" Was all he could manage before being cut off again.

"Earth has no one to fight for it anymore, so that is what you must do. I know it may seem unfair, but it is your purpose, something you will soon realize. Do not fret, child. Though your path will be the hardest, it will be on that same path that you shall discover yourself."

The rupture grew, and the ground whipped again, more violently this time.

"I cannot keep you here any longer. Understand that it was hard to bring you here – even more so to keep you here, which is why you must go. When you return you will find that you are clothed. The clothing is the same I found you in with some touches of my own. It is made of diamond threading and woven tightly."

Slae wanted to say something, anything, but the pressure was intense. Everything seemed blurry and wavy as the Angel faded away. He began falling, desperately working to regain his balance. There was nothing under his feet, nothing to grab and yet he could see the island. Or is it farther away now? He thought. Slae tried to reach for it, it was at his fingertips and if only he could grab the edge of the island he would be ok.

Chapter 2: An Evil Within

Sweat dripped from Slae’s body as he awoke sitting upward, his hair flipped over head. Slae parted his black hair with his fingers taking in his surroundings; he was in a forest, thick and green. Birds chirped, sticks snapped as animals scampered about and chipmunk chatter dropped from above. Next to him was a circle of moss covered stones with a small pit in the midst of them filled with leaves.

Slae shook his head, the voice of the Angel still carrying her last words as they trailed off, “You are not alone, I am watching over you.”

Slae took note of several layers of leaves covering something just a foot away from the pit. Leaning forward he swiped away the soil and leaves that had collected on a small wooden box. The box looked like it would have been magnificent at one point, however the passage of time was not kind. It was now faded and rotted to the point of breaking. When Slae tried to open it up the leather strap pulled off the soggy wood making up the lid. A second attempt caused the lid to break away from the rusted hinges revealing the space within.

Inside was a simple envelope, old and fragile, leaning against the decomposed felt of the wall. Some stones and decomposed trinkets were also inside, but only the envelope seemed important. Slae carefully removed the envelope and flipped it open to see its contents. It held a single languished newspaper clipping which he carefully unfolded, unknowingly cracking it in the process.

It was a black and white picture of a large man that stood upon a lavish stage. Before him was a grand podium of metal and marble that shimmered from beams of light. His arms were outstretched as he gazed, seemingly at Slae. He had remarkably smooth skin and dressed in dark robes that adorned his majesty. Writing in an unfamiliar language was etched into the fabric of the robes, predominantly along the torso; though the writing was also upon parts of the sleeves.

Barely legible words were beneath the picture, stating:

Today we are graced by our beloved Omnipotent Pontiff as he addresses many of our concerns about our future. Since his takeover of our planet, just one week ago, all weapons have been disposed of and now true peace reigns throughout. We are now left to discover our own happiness and place in life.

Setting down the article Slae’s mind reeled; how could I not remember something like this! Slae knew this to be what the Angel spoke of; his reason for being here. Even so he wished there was something from his memory to aid in knowing what to do. While deliberating over what he knew or rather what he did not know, Slae realized he was no longer naked.

He was clothed in a fine red cloth that draped over both shoulders. The cloth crossed over his back and chest then into more of the same material, wrapping tightly about his waist. Here it was clipped together by a metallic clasp of gold made in the form of a bolt of lightning. The draping cloth hung just past a black belt made up of several strips of fabric.

The belt struck Slae as odd, for it seemed like something was missing. Shrugging it off he looked past the belt to red pants strapped onto his waist. The pants were made up of the same fabric as the rest of his clothing and hung loosely from his thighs. The clothes were soft and incredibly comfortable. Yet as he pulled on the fabric it showed no evidence of frailty. The entirety of the outfit was clean despite having woken on a forest floor.

As he fingered his new apparel, a gale of cold air hit him setting his attention upon a pristine lake barely visible through the tree line. Slae stood up, an uneasy feeling coming over him, yet he felt his entire being urged to go near it, heel-toeing it the entire way, looking much like a cautious animal.

The closer he walked to it the colder he became and yet sweat seeped from his pores. Slae knelt near the water and slowly leaned over with his heart pounding; remembering what happened last time. Last time, he thought as he stepped back from the water, was it all a dream?

He could remember the Angel of Light so well and how his image attacked him prior. Yet, the dream felt as much a reality as this did now, the box and decrepit paper would also suggest it was not a dream. Slae thought hard, but could not wrap his mind about it: the Angel sent him back to where she found him, but mentioned no passage of time… And yet everything seemed severely aged.

He shook his head, clearing it of thoughts. He had to press on, an inner voice urged him to do so. Slae could not shake the uneasiness, as though something demonic could be lurking in his own reflection, just as it had before. Though, there was no way of knowing if it was a dream or not.

Slae decided the only way to find out was to look into the waters and open his mouth. Heart pounding and his mind screaming he leaned over the waters. Fighting against himself to spread open his jaw he squinted in anticipation and his arms shook. Nearly choking on his own relief seeing his teeth and tongue; he continued to stare, now convinced he dreamt it all.

Satisfied, he watched himself smile back, “but I’m not smiling,” he realized out-loud.

He felt his face. His lips were not curled, and his mouth was parted open, unlike his grinning reflection. The image held his every move, smirking mockingly. Reaching out Slae felt the water; it was solid and felt like cool crystal. He looked out at the lake, seeing the water was as glass and the woods no longer moved with life, a deadly stillness had taken over.

Slae locked eyes with the image, tense with fear and anxiety, he yelled at his reflection, "Who are you!?"

With both shock and horror the grinning reflection calmly replied, "I am you." Slae was frozen speechless.

Nonetheless his reflection read his thoughts and said, "I know not how, but I am you and you are I."

Finding his words again Slae responded, "Are you the other one the Angel spoke of?"

Grinning wickedly the reflection replied, "I am as empty as you; all that I know is that you are nothing without I." With that Slae tried to speak but found his words cut off.

Parting his lips, Slae’s reflection revealed the same sphere as before, violently ablaze in a white and pure fire. Slae reacted instinctually and slammed his fist into the solid surface, shattering the surface into shards that spun upward in a quaking of power, then dispersed into a heavy mist. The mist hovered downward, until settling back into the water.

Slae was stunned that he broke the surface this time, but words filled his head, "You think you did that?" The voice mocked, "Hmm."

A splash at the end of the lake of a small fish, accompanied the gentle chirp of birds before taking flight over the cold water; the forest had returned to life again. Beneath a sweating brow, Slae watched the rippling of water around his arms and realized he was free from whatever control his other half had on him. Shuddering uncontrollably Slae stood, still peering into the lake, trying to wrap his mind around everything; it just seemed too much for him.

A quick whooshing sound broke through the customary noises of the forest and found its way to Slae's ears. He turned about and went back to the box where he scooped up the only belonging he had; the newspaper clipping. He attempted to fold it, but it just crumbled at the seam, breaking the paper in half and leaving Slae little choice but to discard it.

Moving in the direction he heard the noise, it was not far before the forest split into a long clearing, and in the split laid black asphalt. It stretched in opposite directions into curves separating the woods. Being the first man-made structure Slae had come across he decided to follow the road, hoping it would lead to civilization.

He did not know how he knew it was man-made, however, such knowledge seemed so natural to him that it did not strike a single chord of surprise. Lost in thought he stepped on the pavement, unaware of the vehicle making its way around the bend. When the driver caught sight of Slae in the road it was too late. Having little time to react he blew the horn and tried to steer away from Slae. Slae pivoted in time to meet the hot grill of the large truck.

The movement of the truck came to an immediate stop, the front of it wrapped about Slae as the engine broke from its mounts flying out of the open-top of the truck and bashing Slae in the face. The back of the truck hinged to the right, taking the front with it and breaking off from Slae with force enough to eject scraps of metal into the woods. As it twisted sideways the momentum of the mass caused the truck to lift from the ground and flip into the air, coming down hard enough to break open the enclosed trailer it was hauling.

Slae was somewhat stunned, noticing his hands were pinned by the bumper, which had stayed behind after wrapping about him. He effortlessly pressed against it, breaking the bumper free and causing it to crash with a racket of noise. He quickly scanned over his body, noticing immediately that there was no damage to him or his clothing, and for a moment, Slae was very impressed. Yet, his pride would have to wait as a blood-choked scream let loose from behind.

The truck had been hauling a few dozen people, many of which appeared to have been violently ripped from their seat and thrown onto the road. The scream went off again, coming from a woman who laid on her back as her limbs were mangled beyond use. Her screams quickly became more feint as she visibly paled, letting out one last gasp before death took her.

The whole road looked like this, with people laying in ruin, already dead or dying. Slae did not know how he could help, but could not just standby and watch. Especially as he was at fault; for which he already began to hate himself for. Slae began approaching some of the injured, when a jarring sensation nearly floored him. Pain, intense pain throughout his body accompanied by rampant emotions running over him. He gritted his teeth in response to the assault, when he discovered the pain was not real but was only in his head.

Slae breathed purposefully to calm his mind as he scanned over every living person he could see. With each person he looked at, emotions and pain belonging to that person intensified. Am I feeling what they are feeling? Slae wondered to himself, These are not my pains nor my sensations. I wonder-

Slae noticed a man, one of several still able to move and dressed in a dirty green coat, make his way to the broken part of the trailer where an arm protruded from the opening. Slae could sense such dread from the man, but also an intent to harm, though Slae could not put much stock into it given the situation. He moved toward the man in the green coat which had begun tugging at the hand and it was obvious the man had yet to notice Slae.

Though once Slae was close to ask if the man needed help, he glanced at Slae in the same moment he sliced a ring-bearing finger from the hand, which fell into his open palm. Within the palm was a necklace and glasses and a sudden rush of panicked-fear came from the man as he took note of Slae’s motion toward him. Slae was flush with anger at what he witnessed; though despite being new to everything and even confused, he had no doubt between right and wrong.

The man in the green coat started at the sight of Slae’s face, cutting his arm on sharp metal and tripping over a dead body, “Tch-OW! Stay back! Don’t come near me!”

Slae just stared at the man, choosing to hold himself at bay, though a tinge of stinging begun in the back of his brain, enough to get his attention. At the same time, several of the survivors began to move and while some fled into the woods, a couple staying behind, helped others with escaping. Slae approached the opening where the arm came out of and found several still inside the trailer, a few still alive, but barely; of the one whose finger was removed, he laid passed out and lumped over himself.

Slae looked back at the man, seeing him charge with a limp into the forest, his dirty green trench-coat flapping behind him, following the others. For a moment, Slae’s mind lapsed in apparent shock from the situation and the stinging in the back of his head spread, when a sudden thought to check on the driver came over him. He walked toward the front of the truck to find the driver’s demise was far worse. The truck had completely collapsed onto the driver, a mangled mess of metal, parts and flesh were pressed together in the cab.

Slae stared at the horrific scene, unable to take his eyes from it. Some of the driver was distinguishable, such as his head and parts of the torso, and a single arm with hand clutching at something in his shirt pocket. Slae, though mortified and reluctant, had to know what was so important in that pocket that the driver reached for it in his passing moments. Slae pulled the hand back, only to leap back at the flick of the driver’s eyes in his direction.

The driver’s voice rasped, barely audible, “Hey… are you okay? You’re the one I hit, right?”

Slae trembled slightly at the words. This man laid here, completely impaled by the entire front of the truck, being held together by it, and he cared more for Slae’s safety than his own.

“Come…” He rasped, his fingers twitched instinctively, attempting to motion Slae over.

Slae slowly approached the driver, who stared at the pocket he was grabbing at before and said, “I… I can’t move my arms…”

Slae slowly reached into the man’s pocket and pulled a faded and stained picture from it. On it was a much younger version of himself, holding a dark-haired girl on his lap who seemed unhappy to be a part of the picture. Yet the pride on the man’s face showed only love for his daughter. Slae propped the picture up for the man to see, who smiled gratefully as he looked at it.

“Say… how are my passengers?”

Slae cleared his throat to talk but was at a loss for words.

“Ah. Not so good then? That’s… it’s okay. It was a long-shot anyways…” The man wheezed just a little, and blood pooled into his grey beard, and he eyed Slae for a moment before smiling.

“You’re strong,” His rasping voice began to sound distorted, “Protect the others… survive…” The man’s words left his lips in a final breath as his eyes rested on the picture.

Slae watched the life drain from his eyes and of all the emotions Slae felt within himself and from the man, the most powerful one happened to be the quietest of them all: Peace. This was not a man who feared death, but lived for others and through his sacrifice, found peace.

Slae was unsure as to how he could feel other’s emotions, but as he stepped back from the man, his hand bumped his shoulder and in that instance he could have sworn he heard the laughter of a young girl.

Then sirens, faint at first, grew in noise and Slae felt a warning for himself and the people escaping, making their way through the woods. He would do his best to protect them, though the stinging in the back of his brain had worked its way to the front and his arms and legs seemed to move more of their own will, than his. He could barely feel them as it were, and yet something propelled them to move as he ran into the woods.

Slae went to rub his head, but his arm did not move and pain continued intensifying, what is this? Am I losing it again? Slae wondered to himself. He grew concerned, for if he was not moving himself forward, then it must be his other half. Slae tried to fight for control, but the pain weakened his willpower and his vision blurred into a haze of darkness, but not before seeing that he was catching up with a certain man in a green coat.

Before going completely unconscious, Slae heard a familiar voice speak lazily in a language that he had not heard before, “Kyuum’se haed” and to his surprise, he understood the words meaning: “Flesh of dust, ashen in haste.”

After a while, Slae felt himself coming to, though not before witnessing the nightmarish images of a bloodied man suddenly becoming like stone and then swept away like ash in a windstorm. It was indeed the same man who stole the ring from a survivor, and then ran into the woods, the same man he saw himself catching up to before blacking out.

It took a moment, but Slae was finally able to open his eyes, his head craned hard against the remains of a tree. Slae winced as he sat up, his stiffened neck aching. He reached for his neck only to stop at what was grey dust coating his hands and speckled up his arm. Gritting his teeth in frustration, he sat up and looked around in surprise. The sun was nearly set, casting a very dim glow through the woods, just enough to see a trail of wreckage leading right to him.

Trees, many too big to reach around, were toppled over with such force that splinters from them stuck into the bark of standing trees. The ground was burnt in a chaotic pattern with giant splotches of blackened ground at the center of each one. Slae could not be completely sure of what happened but did know that there appeared to be a struggle leading to this point, most probably between him and his other half.

Slae’s head then spun wildly, he could feel a waning dark power within himself and with it, more memories from just moments ago pushed their way to the surface. He could see himself grabbing at his head and yelling violently. There seemed to be lightning everywhere, not from the sky, instead coming from him. A laughter filled his head, so maniacal and menacing that Slae could nearly see the teeth-bared grin behind such sinister darkness.

Slae fell back to the ground, “I am not ready for this…” He muttered above a whisper before passing out.

Chapter 3: Machinations of Shadow

Slae awoke to a distant noise in the woods, gasping in the cool moist air of the evening. Some time had passed and the setting sun was but a gentle glow, its light barely visible through the trees. Above silvery stars glimmered beyond the canopy above and dew settled upon everything. A short way off the rustling of dozens of feet came crashing across dead leaves, and old sticks. They all moved in unison toward a single spot, some low murmurs and several pairs of feet could be heard moving out.

A deep husky voice said, "A lot of wreckage in this direction... Four man squad follow the grouping of tracks going East! Those sweeping the perimeter keep in pairs of two! The rest of you, fall in line with me!"

Another voice broke through, "The ground is charred. It almost looks like lightning struck here."

Yet another voice also spoke, “There are trees down all over the place, and more burned ground this way.”

A small moment of silence, then the husky voice said, "Ready your weapons men, we may not be facing a normie.."

A deep voice, far away spoke loudly, “I thought we’d seen the last of those?”

“Don’t you remember-“ This voice was cut off my another, stern voice.

“The damage seems to follow this direction.”

Slae laid there, in a deep daze, listening to the noises. He was unsure if he was wake yet or not, and after the last set of words he could hear the marching of feet get closer. He sat up quietly, noticing a dancing of lights coming toward him, though they were probably a couple minutes away; a weight of uneasiness slowing their movements.

In a low voice, “This is something crazy, the damage is even worse through here.”

The husky voice spoke again, “Stay sharp, and despite propaganda, those oddities still exist.”

It was not long before one of the men noticed Slae, and shined a light on his face. The group stopped, and a hushed murmur stirred amongst them, being unsettled by Slae’s somewhat alien characteristics.

The husky voice spoke calmly, “Relax men, its just as I said. Remember your training.”

Several more lights shined on Slae, as a man stepped for him, the others following as he spoke, “I am Lieutenant Boyd, what is yours?”

Slae looked up at the man for a moment, he could not discern any evil intent from the man, but could not shake the feeling that something was amiss. This was especially true as he could feel fear and intent to harm from all the men there, but from Lt. Boyd, there was nothing.

Slae stood to his feet, squinting at the lights, trying to see the man he was talking to. To his surprise the lights dimmed and all the colors became filtered by a blue hue. He could clearly see the men dressed in uniform, a type of cargo-style pants, plated in a resistant but light material. They wore vests, packed with equipment and lined with durable materials and printed on their hats, vests and heavy boots were the letters E.P.F. The man with the husky voice was a standard height, and compared in feature to the men with him. No hair on his head, aside from a thick grey mustache making him look considerably older.

“I am, a- Slae.”

“A-Slae?” Boyd repeated verbatim.

Slae shook his head, “Just Slae.”

As Slae surveyed the men more closely, he noticed that in the other hand of the men were ready a form of weapon; Slae surmised it to be a long and weighted battering rod. Slae stopped squinting his eyes, and squinted again, seeing his vision return to normal, then go back to filtering the light. This caused Boyd to raise a hand, the lights were lowered toward the ground and Slae was able to look normally at them.

"Tell me rebel, where did you come from?” Lt. Boyd’s tone was slightly less than professional, but Slae still could not pin down a single defining emotion coming from him.

Though the ability was new to Slae, he already felt a strong grasp of it and to this extent, it bothered him greatly that this man seemed so empty.

"Rebel?" Slae queried.

"Do not play your game with me!” Lt. Boyd yelled, a spurt of cruelty ebbed in his voice and he sighed before speaking more calmly, “Listen, my men here want nothing more than to spill blood. Its what they know. Whether or not they spill yours, is up to you.”

Slae stood in silence for a moment, thinking how he might try to convince the man, “I am sorry, I do not even know who I am, let alone-“

Boyd cut off Slae in a mocking tone, "Very convenient. Let me put this another way. We know you were heading to meet up with a member of the fledgling rebels. You just need to tell me where that is, and we will take it from there. IF you are trying to protect the others with you, forget it. My men are on their trail and what they do to them will be-“

“Wait!” Slae interceded, remembering the final request of the driver, “I cannot let you do that.”

Boyd scoffed and some of his men laughed, “Oh well. Have fun boys.” Lt. Boyd stepped back as his men closed in on Slae.

The men approaching Slae took a fighting stance with their flashlights and small rods that produced high voltages of a strangely purple electrical current. The first swing came in, a glee of violence found in the man’s evil smile. The rod hit Slae, who attempted to block, but the current sent him into spasm and keeping him from properly defending against the barrage of other attacks coming in, but Slae refused to go down.

Boyd, scraping at his scraggly mustache had never seen anyone endure like Slae. The rods did not produce a normal current, but was charged with a dark power with enough energy to keep a large city running for decades. It was rare they used them, and only had them in the circumstance that they faced a powerful foe; though they have been known to use them on people too for crowd control. Boyd reached in his pocket and pressed at something in his pocket before waving his hand in the air.

"Alright! Enough!" He shouted, looking at Slae in a complexity of emotions.

Slae breathed heavily, but looked unharmed. The tree behind him had the bark peeled back and the tree charred, just as the ground immediately around his feet had also blackened and smoldered from intense heat. As soon as Slae could sense Boyd’s myriad of confusion, it was gone. The man looked as composed as ever. Yet within himself he could feel a dark and familiar sensation, like something clawing to get out.

“Tell me again, where you were planning to meet with the rebels?” Boyd asked, though he did not intend to ask again, he knew further beatings were going to be useless.

When Slae did not even so much as look up, one of Boyd’s men gritted his teeth and came in with a fist as he yelled, “Show some respect!”

As soon as the fist touched Slae, residual energy from the beating just moments ago leapt off into the man. It immediately blew his arm off and sent the rest of him flying backwards. The hair on his body vaporized, his skin smoldered, appearing to shrivel and his clothes burst into a haze of fire that killed him before landing forty feet away.

Though Boyd did not flinch to the death of his soldier, his anger surfaced in a rage as he whipped out a strange handgun and aimed it right at Slae’s face. Slae looked up at him with an intense gaze, causing fear to likewise seep into his otherwise stoic Lieutenant. Unbeknownst to Boyd, the look on Slae’s face was one of intense battle. Beneath his gaze he was again losing the fight with his other half, to which Slae blamed his own emotions and lack of willpower on. It seemed any flurry of emotion opened a doorway for the evil entity within to stick its foot through and though this entity seemed unable to hold his control for very long, Slae feared for what he might do.

Slae then felt himself smile, bearing a toothy grin, but it was not of his own doing. The lieutenant, panic setting in, pulled his trigger and with each succession, moved the gun closer to Slae’s face. The greyish purple beam that exited exploded across Slae’s face in a splash of arrays that cut down trees but luckily missed everybody else. Yet, even as the barrel pressed into Slae’s forehead, the gun clicked and Slae was still smiling, not a mark on him. Boyd went to pull back, but against Slae’s own will he grabbed Boyd’s hand holding the gun and squeezed it hard enough to crumple the gun with his hand.

Boyd screamed in agony as he fell backwards through his men, commanding them to kill. At this point, Slae felt more like a spectator in his own body, unlike the time before where he blacked out; all he could do was watch the horror that came next. It was a strange sensation, as he could still feel his body as though it was his own and at times, his body did move as he commanded it. Yet his control felt numbed, as though the signal from his brain was reaching its destination only to be canceled out by a stronger command.

Slae stood, straightening his back, seeming slightly taller, a glint of silver playing at the edges of his hair. This caused the men to step back as he glanced down at them, all their flashlights and battering rods sparked and burst into an instantaneous an intense blue flame. The men dropped their equipment onto the ground where they disintegrated into dark fumes and debris. In that moment, the last of the sun’s rays vanished from over the horizon and the dark of night was upon them in a hurry.

The rest, as Slae would later recall it, was like a hellish nightmare as his body acted viciously against everyone near him. His hand went out in a flash, causing a small sonic-boom and hitting an E.P.F. soldier close by. The attack shredded the man’s clothing and likewise his body; his shattered remains flung through the forest.

“No… Stop… What am I doing?!” Slae said, but the words only echoed around in his own head.

To which a reply came, distorted and cruel, “You will enjoy this, just watch.”

As Slae’s hand retreated, the men opened fire on Slae with more standard-style handguns, the bullets glancing off him as his gaze fell upon soldiers who were previously doing a perimeter sweep. They were now running however, fearing for their lives. One by one, the men stopped firing as he turned toward a large tree, still standing, and with one hand he pulled it from the ground, roots and all.

He held the tree aloft with ease, angling it somewhat like a spear. Slae tried to will himself to stop, but at the same time felt other thoughts intrude as he turned toward the tree and breathed on it. The tree shuddered and groaned and cracked fiercely until all the bark and branches were shed and the remainder had splintered into a dozen large spears hovering about his hand.

Slae watched through his own eyes, knowing what was to come. He squinted, allowing him to see into the dark woods and the furthest runner. Slae could feel the desire to launch the spears out at all the men and in that moment pushed his will upon himself to stop it, and all the spears fell to the ground, save one. It landed neatly in his palm, and without hesitation he lunged it forward with perfect grace. The spear swept over the tips of fingers, guiding it perfectly to the target ahead.

In the pitch black of the woods the men heard the unmistakable cry of a man carried on the mangled noises of wood and bones shattering and flesh tearing. There was no mistaking the demise of their comrade and they now knew better than to run and simply stood in desperate despair, dropping their guns to the ground, some begging for mercy.

Boyd then stepped back in, his confidence having suddenly returned and gaining the attention of the soldiers, “Men! Move out! I signaled for ‘you-know-what’; I had my suspicion on this one. However, he is no longer our problem.” The men took confidence in their leader’s words and responded in respect as they made a hasty retreat, albeit while shaking.

Slae stared at the men leaving, half of him yearning to crush every one of them. Despite that he could feel his control returning though heavily tainted. This time he also noticed an incredible swell of power surging through him, and with it came an insatiable urge for violence. Making his struggle to discern which thoughts and feelings were his all the harder.

Even so, Slae had gained enough control to let them leave, while Boyd stayed behind, gripping his bloodied hand. He seemed to have been able to remove most of the gun, but fragments were still stuck in. The husky man eyed Slae from head to toe, as he paced heavily in front of him.

“You may have caught me off-guard a moment ago, but don’t think I am remotely scared of you! I’ve seen things far more terrifying, things that would have you cowering before me.”

Slae responded in a dead voice, "I doubt it."

Lt. Boyd put a finger to his ear and gave a grisly smile and he quickly unplugged a wire going from his ear to a radio device on his uniform. Immediately, the sounds of cries for help and people begging blared, followed were the sounds of them being beaten and tortured.

Boyd stood just long enough to chuckle mockingly, before Slae reacted in anger. Slae kicked the husky-voiced man in the chest sending him through the forest. He bounced off the ground like a stone across water before getting mangled around a crooked tree. Slae turned, an unholy anger filled his thoughts with murderous intent, but found something he did not expect: a headless and bipedal machine with clubbed limbs.

It stood just taller than a normal man, but did not resemble one. It was fully erect upon two legs. The mainframe of the mechanized creature was made of a dark-grey plated-metal about a cylindrical body. Upon the body were several vents and a screen occasionally acting as its face. Protruding from the body the limbs were coupled onto large balls, as were the elbows, knees, and ankles, giving it full three-sixty-degree rotation.

The arms protruded straight out from the body and composed of big flat-headed clubs where hands should be. However, the arm and clubs appeared to have been spliced together where thin but deep angular grooves cut along the surface; indicating far more functionality than just pummeling.

Metal from which the machine was made had a strange smoky appearance that seemed brighter than its surroundings. Its surface blurred into and out of focus, as though it struggled to contain the power within it.

The machine moved toward Slae, its movements producing a nearly inaudible grinding as it took a walk about him. Watching it, Slae decided to mimic the machines movements as he gave it a very dissatisfied, almost brooding look.

"You came for death too?” Slae words were barely his own, but he found them fitting.

The machine halted at Slae’s words and the grinding became loud as its clubs broke apart in a graceful fashion. Within the blur of a second’s time, the clubs formed into a fully functional hand with six fingers. The hands lunged toward Slae, gripping him by his shoulders, slamming him against a tree, shredding its bark and cracking it vertically.

The machine sounded off angrily, “To defeat me would be to defeat the Shadow! It gives me life and power, and with that power, I will crush you!”

"Shadow?" Slae asked, though more to himself.

The machine stepped back, then roared to life as it flung a hand at Slae, gripping him by the face, quick enough to surprise him. It brought Slae over its body and slammed him into the ground with enough force the ground impacted and Slae bounced, but before he hit the ground the machine kicked him in the chest. The force of the blow sent Slae bouncing through the woods in the same fashion as Lt. Boyd and split the tree where Slae's body hit.

Standing back to his feet, he wiped some dirt from his face and smiled with clenched teeth and Slae felt the smile was not his. Despite that, his movements were more of his own and they exercised combat training he could not recall by memory but instead acted instinctually.

Leaves and ground stirred as an incoming onslaught of black rope-like tentacles aimed for Slae, who raised a single hand and swatted them casually out of the air and stepped toward the machine. It in turn raced for Slae, wielding a blade made of a strange purple essence wrapped about its hand and swinging down, nearly landing. The heat from the blade was intense, and Slae missed that the same blade-wielding arm had done a full rotation, slicing straight into his left shoulder.

Slae shot back in a leap, groaning in pain and for a moment, he thought he saw white flame pour out from the injury, but when he turned to look, all that remained was a quickly vanishing scar. Likewise, his tunic begun rethreading itself where it too had been damaged. Slae had little time to question anything as the blade was swung at him again, and without thinking of the consequences he raised a forearm to block.

In the moment the blade struck, Slae imagined his arm being cut off so vividly he nearly thought it had happened but reality was far stranger than either opponent expected. The energy blade had struck Slae’s arm, yet not so much as a scratch was present and Slae could sense the machine stare at him, despite there being no face visible. Pulling his arm back, the machine shot back away and continued to study Slae for a moment as an awkward silence fell over them.

To break the awkward silence and while his thoughts were still partially his, Slae decided to try and find answers, though instead his questions did not come out as intended, “Tell me machine, what are you?”

“What do you think this is? Q and A? I’m here to kill you!” The machine responded.

The machine leapt at Slae, but seemed to move slower, allowing Slae to easily side-step it and he brought an elbow down, smashing it to the ground. The arms on the machine spun with great speed and unleashed shadowy tentacles that clutched hold of Slae’s arms and throat. The machine spun onto its feet, and swung Slae into several trees and eventually into a large rock jutting from the ground. Repeatedly he was smashed into the rock, even as the rock was rubble he continued to be ground into it.

“Enough!” Slae yelled, his anger breaking out with tenacity enough that the tentacles gripping him shredded and the machine was blasted backwards, its attacking arm buckled under the pressure, and parts from it were scattered.

Slae gritted his teeth, trying with great difficulty to keep himself while overwhelming power emerged inside of him. He stepped forward in a fury and unleashed a bolt of electricity that vaporized the leaves in its path and charred the ground. Upon striking the machine, it was hurled out of the woods, into a clearing and Slae squinted his eyes to keep track of its location. It sparked, mangled with limbs and more parts flung about in a trail of ruin.

Slae felt himself grin with satisfaction as he walked for his enemy, allowing his vision to return to normal as he approached. Along the way, he heard the clinking and stretching of metal and wires and was unsurprised to find his opponent in perfect condition.

The machine turned the front of its body toward Slae and oddly enough, did not seem a bit uneasy about the damage it just received, but it did decide to speak, perhaps to give it time for repairing internal components.

“I will answer your question: I am the blend of machine and Shadow, with some human organs acting as a catalyst-“ Slae came, punching it dead in its body, sending it back only a little.

The machine managed to land on its feet suffering no visible damage, “I see, eye for an eye?”

I did not do that, Slae reasoned with himself and responded, “Go on.”

The machine seemed hesitant at first but finally opened up, “I am the only successful candidate and was employed with the only militant force in which I could be tested, the Earth Protection Force. I see now that I can finally test my abilities to their fullest. Odd that you would seem to be equal to those the Shadow faced when it first arrived… Impressive indeed.”

The machine went on, “Now tell me, you aren’t just some rebel. If one like you existed, we would have known about it.”

Slae remained silent and the machine responded, “I see. Giving me the same treatment? Yeah, I heard everything through Boyd’s comms, but unlike Boyd, I believe you. Yet, it makes no difference, I am still going to kill you.”

Slae took position, knowing the real fight was about to begin when words that were barely his escaped, “Why keep me waiting? Afraid? What could a trash can do to me?”

The machine whirled, “Trash can? Fear?!”

Suddenly the ground broke beneath Slae, a thick whip of energy pelting him in the jaw, sending him upward. The same tentacle then wrapped about Slae’s ankle jarring his leg and pulling him into the ground, as it did the tentacle glowed with an eerie grey until erupting in a massive explosion. The explosion sent debris flying skyward, and leveled a mile of forest, charring nearby plants.

To the machine’s complete surprise, a silhouette moved through the curtain of dust until revealing Slae’s unharmed body. His expression darkened considerably, setting the machine into alarm as it launched dozens of dark-energy beams at Slae, each one deflecting off him. Slae continued his move toward the machine, his steps weighed down by his struggle with his inner half and Slae seemed to be holding on, but just barely.

That was until the machine blind-sided him: it leapt from the ground and in a great spin, its hand turned back into a club and pummeled Slae with enough force to send him wrecking through the ground and ruined forest. It was not until a heap of earth piled behind him that Slae came to a stop, and the pain he felt was intense. Flashes of whiteness blinded him, and Slae could have sworn it was more of the white flame, but it quickly subsided.

He stood, only to yell and fall back to the ground, his leg was twisted and began popping as it healed painfully causing Slae’s willpower to wane significantly and his other half pushed through. Slae was now in the passenger seat as he stood up, the machine already standing in front of him.

Slae stepped toward the machine, grinning uncontrollably and causing the machine to step back. Slae’s hair had shortened and had a silvery sheen that stirred just slightly to snaps of static coursing over his body. The machine’s arm detached and launched for Slae’s face in the same moment that it leapt backwards, its fist pounding into a thin wall of air.

“Now it is I’s turn!” The words came out of Slae’s mouth, as he grabbed the detached hand before it could retract, and throwing it back with enough force to impale the machine.

The machine’s mechanical parts healed however, powered by a kind of unholy mix of technology and shadow-energy. It jumped for Slae, its leg swinging for his neck, but Slae arched backwards and under the attack, a single bead of electricity forming on his fingertip. He pushed it into the machine, and it carried the machine back several feet before exploding in dazzling ray of blue lightning ripping into the sky, clearing the clouds.

To Slae’s dismay, the machine seemed unharmed as it flew at him wildly, bringing with it a massive rock and throwing it at Slae. The rock was easily five times larger than Slae and he simply stuck his head out, forehead pointed as it broke across his face, a growing look of violent-joy coming across him. His eyes rimmed with gold and a strange aura steamed from them, and deep inside the transformation, Slae felt himself disappearing to the madness taking hold.

“Come, show I the power of your ‘shadow’!” He taunted.

The machine grew restless and retaliated, this time a hundred tentacles came out at Slae as it lunged sideways in a blinding twist to catch Slae off-guard. The tactic failed however, as Slae managed to dodge both in a skyward arc, however he did not notice the machine’s hands had detached and grabbed him by both ankles. The hands pulled Slae back to the ground in a brutal crash, and the machine’s shadowy tentacles quickly subdued him as its hands returned.

Without wasting a second, both hands broke apart and twisted about into a conjoined cannon, wires feeding up the arms and into the body. At the end of the cannon a black ball formed and quickly grew in size and density, even causing the ground to stir from its sheer mass. Slae tried to break free, when the cannon fired.

An eruption of black energy crushed the ground beneath it and devoured Slae in its devastation. It ripped through trees, leaving nothing behind as it did. Continuing, the powerful blast roared through hills, killing everything near it until finally erupting miles off into the horizon. The horizon turned purple, and rays of violet and shimmering grey fractured across the sky and the shockwave went out in utter havoc, leaving nothing standing for a hundred miles.

Even as this continued, the machine fed the beam, everything about them swept away in a fiery wind that did not cease, and from the beam pushed through a face of terrifying measure. Slae grabbed the barrel of the cannon, the beam ricochet into several directions until he crushed the cannon with his hands. The cannon immediately erupted, but Slae’s horribly twisted face barring an evil grin did not fade.

The explosion dug up the ground dozens of feet deep, and the resounding boom shook the ground as the machine went flying back. Its casing crackled and crumpled, screens shattered and all but its left arm at the elbow completely vaporized. It laid against a small fallen pillar of earth that was pushed up from rolling ground, its body failing to repair.

It stared onward, awaiting its demise as Slae pushed through the dense floating debris, stopping several feet away. He put his hands together, gathering a power that warped the air about it, but his grasp on it was tenuous at best and it was interrupted by an inner voice.

Stop, is this not enough? Slae tried to reason with himself, but his other half spoke aloud, “Shut-it! I will-“ He lost control of the power in his hands, and it sent him flying backwards, the machine shoved against the ground until it gave way to a powerful whirlwind.

The wind swept upward, dropping the machine and Slae to the ground in a sickening thud. Slae could feel he was hurt, which was a good sensation, it meant his other half was losing control again. Even so, he was not done. Slae went for the machine, which held its stub of an arm up, a screen flickering just slightly.

“Wait!” Its voice broke, crackled and filled with mechanical distortion, “I take back what I said… You are something far worse… I must… must… report back. Oh Shadow! What are you… these readings, they cannot-”

Its voice broke up more, being there one second when a shadow was cast over it and it was gone. In its moment of vanishing, Slae could have sworn he heard it proclaim something about the readings being impossible. The storm that had been brewing in Slae suddenly shot back to life in frenzy, knocking Slae to his knees in a daze. Slae felt his will weakening as his thoughts became muddled.

He stood, thinking for a moment of the survivors, then realizing his battle may have caused them problems; though he wanted to run to them and help, he had come to know the malicious intent of his other half in this short time. He decided his best way to help them was to run, just run. To get far away from them.

Slae turned and ran, quickly exiting the woods and leaping over the width of the road he had crossed before. The mangled truck could be seen several feet away as he passed. He ran, harder and harder, not knowing how much longer he could move and how much distance he had put between him and them. He leapt in zigzags to mask his trail, clearing a hundred feet vertically, until finally he hit the ground, his left leg went numb and collapsed under him.

He hit the ground, and rolled several feet. He stood to move, but just pushed forward into a stumble, hitting his head on a large tree. The world spun around him, even his thoughts felt numb and hard to grasp. A voice broke through his lips.

“Now you did it…” Came the insipid voice of his other half, “You make I sick, so weak.”

Slae slowly stood while his other half taunted him some more, “There is no power in you, only I.”

Slae clenched his fist in frustration, yet the taunts continued more, “You could not stop I from killing. Soon, I will spill blood.”

Slae gritted his teeth as he responded, “Like those before? I could have walked away!”

“Yes, like a coward.” He responded.

Slae strained against his failing mind and body, his blood boiling at the words of his other half.

The ground about him stirred, and the surrounding debris stirred about until with the last of his strength Slae yelled out, “Enough!” The ground swept up in a flourish of power as felled trees exploded outward into a pulverized mess of splinters.

Slae collapsed to the ground again, side of his face pressed into it as he muttered his last words, “I will not let you have me.”

Slae’s eyes closed and strayed from consciousness as images phased in and out of focus until he found himself standing on a barren plane of dense rock. Slae looked about, seeing with him hundreds of thousands of men dressed in white-gray high-tech equipment. Looking up the sky appeared void of any atmosphere and strange stars brightened a black sky with an immense green-hued planet a distance away. This is clearly not Earth anymore. I must be dreaming, Slae reasoned with himself.

Slae turned to see a man dressed in the same gear as all the others, but adorned with medals of honor. His head covered in a clear material that fit tightly and a tiny tube - no thicker than a few hairs attacked to the base of the headgear. Slae somehow knew this tube was used to feed oxygen to the helmet.

Slae leaned into the man and asked, "Where are we?"

The man turned and looking up at him with a skeptical look saying, "Sir, commander! We are on the Dead Star! Your men are ready for battle!"

"Dead Star? Battle?!" Slae said in astonishment.

"Yes Commander! All the remaining forces of our enemies throughout the galaxy have gathered upon this surface, a place of their choosing, a holy place! The white star of Vohl! Here, we will determine the rightful ruler of the galaxy, which only a fool would assume any other than our supreme Potentate!"

When the man turned his gaze toward the front of the battlefield Slae noticed his reflection on the man's helmet. He was not himself. His hair was much shorter, and spiked. Instead of black, the hair shone with a silvery-essence. His eyes were gray with a golden iris and red pupils. His clothing was also different, being a green and blue mix. The shirt was loose but of one solid piece tying into a belt with metal vertical strips. A similar strap ran from one shoulder to a plate upon his chest.

Just as Slae went to examine the plate upon his chest and digest the situation any further, he was no longer the Commander. Slae now watched from above. A sea of soldiers prepared for battle, the number of which seemed but a grain of sand compared to their enemies. Despite this, he could not shake the feeling that the battle was going to be a slaughter.

Everyone stood in perfect stillness for some time. Then in a flash, the military moved upon the forces of their enemy, consisting of dozens of races from around the galaxy, and even beyond. The memory played out, a blood soaked battle as the Commander’s soldiers cleaved enemies apart and marched through them as though they were insects. Slae could not pull his eyes from the frenzied chaos below, where millions were giving their life in a hopeless contest over the galaxy. While watching this dream as a bodiless entity, Slae felt information about the battle becoming known to him more and more.

It was clear that many of these races were already under the rule of a powerful race, and this was their last hope of breaking free. This race that exhibited clear battle ability had enslaved countless peoples, while on the other hand cooperating with any that bowed a knee to them. Yet, in this battle, they had no ally and no unity in their power, save their own and it was all they needed. Cruelty was winning in this region of space.

Then Slae’s focus forcibly moved to the man standing next to the Commander, who suddenly winced in pain as his body began to separate into large pieces and falling into a heap about his boots. His blood washing onto the Commander’s boots before quickly crystalizing. Anger grew upon the Commander's face as he turned to witness legions of the enemy creeping up from behind, preparing a large curious weapon.

The weapon fired what looked like thin lines of dense light and as quickly as it fired time slowed to a crawl. The only exception was the Commander, who walked straight toward the charge of light fired at him.

The attack, which had moved so quickly as to appear invisible before, now creeped along. He approached the lines of light and made no attempt to move around them but instead walked into the attack. The dense light snapped like strings and stretched outward until popping into dazzling particles that flickered away into oblivion.

Once he neared his attackers, time sped back to normal, their attack falling apart as a cascade of mist to the ground. The enemies flinched in surprise, turning in a futile attempt to run. With fury, the commander whipped a hand out and a shockwave ripped from his hand. It raced toward the men, instantly eroding the men, destroying their suits and cauterizing their flesh. None survived.

With that, he returned to his position and gazed over the battlefield, a flicker of anger sparking in his eyes. Hefting a single finger and pointing lazily over the battlefield, a single spark leapt off, blue and mystical as it raced along the ground and disappearing into the stampede of soldiers.

Then, a blue hue shimmered over the heads of the Commander’s soldiers, and splashes of white and purple arced into the sky for a moment. The display of power was done, having wiped out a portion of the enemy allowing the front lines to shift toward and aid in other battle efforts.

In that moment, Slae realized he must be witnessing a memory of his other half and through demonstration, he was incredibly powerful. Perhaps, more than he wanted to admit; seeing that the Commander could clearly win the war on his own.

Then the enemy seemed to panic as its many hundreds of battleships began firing upon the Commander’s troops. Despite the barrage, not a single yield reached the ground. Then a stillness swept over the soldiers of every flank and they gazed toward the heavens, whispering amongst themselves. Even the battleships stopped their barrage, and aimed guns toward a fixed spot in space.

Something was coming, and Slae could sense immeasurable power washing out from it in swathes of terrifying proportions. Even as it approached, appearing as a light, white and brilliant, its mere presence did not simply destroy all the battleships, but wiped them from existence.

As the light moved toward the surface of Vohl, it compressed under the tremendous weight of power. The suits of the soldiers withstood the impact for a moment, but first the Commander’s enemies gave way, becoming flat with ground. Then the Commander’s forces too fell, their suits caving in until all that remained standing was the Commander. His clothing and anything not naturally part of him peeled off and broke down across the ground, revealing a god-like and golden exterior about a thinly veiled frame.

As the light approached the Commander, Slae thought he might learn of its face when a voice spoke, even in the void of space it was heard, "With the power of the lords within me, through the flames of vengeance! By the powers of hatred that blots my very soul! You shall be damned to this star to walk through the fires of justice for all eternity!"

Slae watched the light erupt into rays of living radiance as he was quickly zoomed away to where the dormant star was but a dot. And in the darkness a burst of white fire upon a rocky and celestial body made the dot burn brightly. However, the dot soon grew closer, revealing its sharp and white flames that licked at the surface of the freshly ignited star, which pooled into glowing liquids that ebbed and flowed.

As the gap closed between Slae and the revived Star of Vohl an agonizing scream could be heard, increasing in volume. The star was now close enough to Slae that he came face to face with a ghastly form of the Commander shrieking and whipping his head about in pain.

Chapter 4 Chosen Path

Some weeks had passed while Slae moved through the forest, careful about every movement he took, avoiding roads and civilization. Though civilization was difficult to find, as all he had discovered were ruins of small towns, looking very much abandoned, but no sign as to why. Even stranger were the business signs, and various lights that flickered with power despite being overtaken by vegetation. Strange vehicles littered the roadways, without wheels and one such vehicle even turned on when Slae touched it.

Rusted, and uncared for a bike with no wheels flashed for a moment. Its LCD screen flickered a red and distorted error, sparked and fell over after expelling a gentle breeze filled with fumes. Slae took some time walking through the town, with much of it taken back by nature, there was little to explore. However, if Slae had to guess he thought the vehicles appeared more advance, even in their rough state, than the truck that hit him.

Exiting the dystopian town, Slae wondered why an entire people would leave so much behind. No furniture, clothing or basic tool could be found. It was all vehicles, and remnants of what appeared to be advance equipment left where they laid.

Slae soon pushed the ruin out of his mind as he could not stop thinking about the machine he fought and it claiming to be alive. Slae knew nothing of the Shadow, or how it could bring a machine to life. It only served to confuse him further. Though it gave him something to think about, since any thoughts about his memories caused only emptiness and misery and sometimes debilitating pains.

In the lapses of time when he could push those thoughts out of his head, he would meditate deeply, working to calm his mind and align his senses. He had no recollection on how to meditate, and yet when he first sat there, the thought and actions to do just that came naturally. His meditations eventually worked toward self-growth and discovering his own strengths and weaknesses. He eventually found how to distinctly separately his thoughts and actions from that of his other half, which he hoped would help control any future outbursts.

In learning about himself, Slae discovered a great strength within, an incredible strength even. At first he thought it was of his other half, having no recollection of it. Yet, it felt natural to him, and in his mind’s eye, seemed a raging river pouring into an infinite expanse.

Deciding to test his strength, Slae happened upon an abandoned quarry. There he lifted large boulders and inoperable machines with such ease it proved to be no test at all. He even discovered a massive slab of granite, appearing to have been pulled from deep within a collapsed portion of the quarry. The granite was easily the largest thing there, even more than the dilapidated work cabins. He put his hands onto the rock and went to lift it, but found he had indeed reached a limit; unable to move it and so he pulled away from it.

He shrugged it off and turned away when an emboldening sensation came him and he turned around to give another try at lifting the granite. He gripped it with both hands, his fingers embedding into its surface and he prepared with all his might to lift it, if even a little. Though, unknown to Slae, nearly half of it was sitting under ground as he lifted. His muscles flexed, and in that moment Slae learned an incredible part of his nature.

The granite, which had been impossible before, suddenly ripped up from the ground. The air filled with dirt raining down, as the ground exploded and the granite flung seventy feet into the air, crashing back to the ground a short ways off. All Slae had left in his hand were two chunks of granite from where he gripped.

Slae stumbled back, “Okay… How… I…” He stammered, his thoughts recoiling from the shock; even his body tangled.

Slae looked down at his hands and pondered on the situation, then walked over to the granite slab, still in one piece surprisingly. He grabbed at it again and hefted it with such ease it was no different than lifting a pebble from the ground.

“How can this be?” Slae wondered aloud, then to himself, I could not even budge it a moment ago and now… Slae stared at the granite as he set it back down, now it has become easy… And now… now I cannot even fathom why I could not lift it a moment ago.

Slae looked skyward, that sensation that rose within me must have been something changing in me. Slae smiled to himself as he grew excited for the first time. He had learned something truly amazing about himself, and finding his limit stirred a desire within to push himself when and where possible.

Now though, Slae wanted to see how fast he might be, already knowing he could move quickly. Before, when getting away from the survivors and other times since, he had been able to move vast distances in a short time, but he never moved with the intent of seeing his potential. Slae turned from the granite and lifted a stone from the ground, and gave it a slight toss in the air.

The moment the stone left his hand, Slae dashed forward, pushing himself hard and with each stride finding he could move even faster. Even as he felt he might reach his limit that limit would suddenly vanish as he ran even faster. Moving over half a mile, the wind about him cracked and stirred as he gave a solid thrust forward. But as he did, Slae stepped into sand that sunk under his weight. He twisted his ankle, smashed into the ground, and heaved up a ramp of dirt that he blasted over the top of. Slae soared over the terrain a few thousand feet, before finally coming back down into a large field. As he hit the ground, craters and hills formed with every skip along the ground until he finally rolled to a stop, his ribs fractured, left leg broken and both arm shattered at the joints.

Slae groaned painfully while healing over the course of several minutes, before standing back to his feet. He sighed, seeing the plumes of dust lingering along his crash landing. He surveyed the terrain, and found places not altered by his crash, were largely flat and solid. He was not about to be deterred and decided to test his speed here. Slae took up another stone and tossed it into the air in the moment he took off. He ran to a landmark, close to three-quarters a mile away before returning to his start position and found the stone had only just begun its descent.

Catching the stone, Slae thought to give it another go, and held the small stone aloft, bumped just an inch into the air and darted for the same land mark. He rounded the land mark and ran back for his starting position, finding the stone in its exact position he tossed it too. He snatched the stone out of the air, and stopped as a rupture of heated wind bellowed like thunder. Slae looked at the stone in his hand, and again surveyed for any damage he caused.

“This world is so fragile… Can I truly defend it?” Slae said, letting the stone roll out of his hand.

After some meditation, he moved back into the depths of the forest where he would spend more time meditating on his power and less time training it. This was largely because his other began messing with his training. The very next day, when Slae attempted to test more of his power, he unwittingly unleashed a flash of lightning with such intensity that it turned his immediate surroundings into ash. Slae was bewildered at the sudden release but felt his other half grinning deep within.

Unfortunately, this quickly became the norm for Slae, greatly frustrating any attempt to learn more. Feeling flustered, he simply backed off training, giving him less things to focus on and allowing his thoughts to drift more and more on the people he killed. Eventually, he began to blame himself, even imagining that he had killed them by his own volition; that a deep seeded desire to harm existed within. The more he thought on it the more he despised himself.

Additionally, Slae struggled with his quest and the abysmal darkness he was left moving into with little information. He had never felt more lost, having no real direction of where to go or even where to begin. The Angel, which he still felt might have been a dream, had yet to reveal herself since his first day and she was the only one he felt would be helpful.

A couple of weeks had come and left and Slae was deep in thought while hiking through a serene setting in the forest. It was extremely quiet here, though Slae could not help but wonder if it was because of an ominous concrete building in the vicinity. Everything around it grew differently than the rest of the forest, taking on thicker bark, and darker greens, yet no animals came near. The building itself had no growth on it, and massive concrete pillars sat at the edge of a dried lake.

As he walked out of his serene environment and into a more customary forest, Slae noticed his surroundings began to change. He could feel a thickening of moisture in the air and perceived a thinning of trees as he walked forward. But he could not make out what laid just past the foliage.

He stopped and looked down just in time to see the grass and leaves being slowly swallowed by whiter than white sand. The ground where he stood built up, carrying him high above the trees. Then the trees fell away until he stood atop of a large hill in a clearing above everything, even most of the clouds.

Water burst forth from the ground and the entire forest sank beneath it until even the tallest tree vanished beneath its depths. Yet the waters continued to rise until they reached Slae's feet in a large splash. Lightning struck the middle of the sandy island causing the sand to alter and coalesce into blood-red brick.

A wooden and twisted branch broke through the ground, holding a dark swirling orb. On the opposing side of the island formed a second orb, one made of light; a light that represented all the good left in the universe. With a thunderous noise a blinding glint exploded out of thin air in the middle of the island. Slae knelt in the water, averting his eyes. While he had hoped to see the Angel again, he also feared their reunion. At the very least, he was assured she was not a dream.

"Slae, be not afraid." The Angel of Light spoke.

Slae gritted his teeth, feeling her righteous nature bear down with such weight he felt it would crush him, "I am afraid! Already I failed you… Blood stains my hands!”

Slae felt so much goodness flowing from her that he nearly wished that she would take his life, ending the torturous guilt within him.

She replied, "You cannot fail me." Slae looked up for a moment, remembering how pleasant her light actually was, “Sorry, this may seem cruel and yet it is the truth. While I yearn for the safety of Earth, if it or all the universe were to experience complete annihilation, I would still remain.”

Slae turned his head down, gripping at his forehead, “I am exasperated… I have killed people. I cannot control the evil within me. I know of nothing about my enemy, then there is-”

Quweaign, the Angel of Light, cut him off as she spoke, “I am aware of what has transpired and lest you forget, you did not act alone. The darkness within the other took hold in those moments and acted more willfully than you. It is true, you are weak against that darkness. Yet, I see a great strength has grown. The other being inside knows this, even bidding his time in wait for the moment when your willpower fades.”

The Angel smiled, “Do not be so easily taken in by the other’s wickedness since that too will serve to weaken you.” The Angel stood from her seat of air, the sand becoming like a mat of stone where ever she stepped.

She moved toward Slae gracefully as she spoke, “I will have a word with this other being residing inside you… though this may hurt.”

As she moved toward Slae, a gentle and sweet wind pulsed from her being as ripples of light ushered from under her feet. She leaned down, cupping Slae’s head gently, then without warning, she dug her fingers into his skull. Slae grabbed her arms in sheer panic, as what felt like torrents of pain flooding his brain. He quickly felt numb and his arms fell to his side, too limp to move with his mouth agape. He wearily looked up at the Angel who was even more focused than before with what he thought was a haze of yellow about her being.

Then, as if tossed from his own body, Slae found himself in third person hovering over the waters. He thought to look around, but realized he already was. He tried to call out but no voice left him. Slae tried to look around again, but found he already was looking in every possible direction simultaneously, seeing no physical body. He was over the ocean, a short ways away, a floating consciousness with nothing to plug his thoughts into.

As he came to grips with his current reality, he noticed his body on the island go through a physical metamorphosis. At the end of the change, he stood with short-spiked silvery-hair amidst white highlights. His pupils were like bottomless pits of deep-red, appearing constricted by vivid and yellow irises. His skin was so golden that it appeared as the metal itself, yet it seemed as soft as any other kind of flesh. Upon his chest formed a silver circle encompassing a single bolt of lightning, metallic in nature but looked as much a part of him as his own skin.

Watching this, Slae realized a most peculiar thing about his body’s form: the lightning bolt was familiar. Not just familiar, but very much apart of himself, as though it held the secrets about his past. He thought to look at his own chest, but remembered he had no body. He grew agitated, but then something was happening with his disconnected body.

A soft, yet powerful blue illuminated the air immediately about Slae’s transfigured form. At the flick of a switch he erupted into consciousness, breaking Quweaign's powerful grip and landing upon both feet. His stance had him hunched forward, ready to pounce when he noticed Slae’s consciousness floating over the water and became filled with evil intent as he took a step toward him, but was stopped at the words of the Angel.

"Wretched creature! You dare defy me?! Take another step toward your host and I will grind you as dust beneath my feet!”

He laughed sickeningly for a moment before turning toward the Angel, standing tall and suddenly appearing more god-like in stature, "Why have you separated him from his body? Do you not know that I wish it as I’s own?"

She replied, "You have become a hindrance with which I must deal. First, however, how did you survive the binding?"

"How should I know, I am as blank as he." He said while lazily pointing to Slae.

In the split of a second the Angel of Light seemed taller as her wings fell apart; raining into the ocean waters below. Her hair pulled back behind her head on its own accord and the glow about her dulled before manifesting into a brilliant yellow. The snow-white cloths floating about her started to move and twist with intensity until tightly wrapping her frame while maintaining her modesty. Her blue eyes burned with intense fury and Slae was unable to take his own eyes off her as she moved toward his other half.

"Do not toy with me mortal! Release for me what you know or you shall be damned another ten-thousand years!" The Angel's voice cracked with deep and frightening tones.

To Slae's amazement, his other half did not even flinch and instead smirked feverishly. He thrusted out a hand, bumping Quweaign back a little and producing a bronze-color stone that caused the air to crackle and reverberate with incredible tones. The aura about his other half exploded into waves of radiance that even washed away the Angel’s own glow. Splashes of blue static tore through the air in short bursts, vaporizing the ground and water alike.

Slae’s other half pulled back his hand and grinned darkly as the stone he held shattered into a deeply-red fire that caused a great weight over the area. The weight pressed the ocean down several feet, but the sand on the island did not so much as stir in the slightest. His other half plunged the fire at the Angel who responded in astonishing speed and grace. Her left hand went out, flicking the attacking hand away, extinguishing all the power it held in a twinkling.

Turning into a step, her aura returned in flurry of living color and shredded the entire island from under both them as she reached out and grabbed her attacker by his shirt and brought him in quickly. Quweaign smashed her forehead into his with force enough to cause a tsunami like wave to ripple out for hundreds of miles. Slae’s other half yelled in pain as white flame poured from his head, and the Angel released him just long enough to bring her left hand into his gut.

The resulting attack caused a torrent of flame to rush out of the other half’s mouth in the moment he doubled over; but only before Quweaign placed her right hand over his head and let loose an orb of light. The light dropped from her like a droplet of water, and erupted over him, smashing him into the water’s surface where he disappeared beneath it for a moment. A chain made of mystical energy shot from the Angel’s back and into the water, eventually bringing Slae’s other half out of the water.

Other than breathing heavily, he appeared fine with a look of hatred burned into his face as he stared into the eyes of the Angel.

“Do I need to rephrase my question?” She asked of him.

“No… Yet you cannot scare I! Do you believe you are truly more powerful than I?”

Her reply caused a slight twitch in the face of Slae’s other half, but he remained unmoved, “No, I do not. Even so, you cannot deny that you lack the ability to win.”

His wretched look became a maniacal smile as he replied, “Fine, but only if you refer to I by name, Angel.”

Quweaign grimaced at the thought, “You will not remember a thing of this moment.”

“I will see about that!” He said.

The Angel did not retort and instead agreed, “Agreed then… Azur, do I need to repeat my question?”

Azur appeared extremely satisfied and went to answer her first question, “While I remember little, I do recall the moments forthright the binding. You were under false pretenses that I could not act as merely a conscious spirit. Yes, you could never fathom how easy it was for I. I shielded I’s self and planted as a seed, I’s spirit into Slae’s body.”

Azur paused in his gloating, causing a clearly irritated Quweaign to urge him further, “Go on, tell me the rest.”

“Oh yes. I was planted in his body…Hiding I’s self and attempting to preserve I’s self and fool the great Angel of Light.” Azur ended his sentence in a mocking tone before continuing, “Unfortunately, circumstances took place, unforeseen ones, that wiped our memories. That slouch also slept for some time!” Azur said, thrusting an angry finger at Slae, but went on, “I need a conscious mind to work, if even just partially, so I remained as a seed, until he awoke.”

"If what you say is true, then you have possibly doomed us all!" She said, as she raised a hand to strike him.

"Then you are doomed." He said shrugging his shoulders.

Quweaign lowered her hand. It was all she could do to not destroy him where he stood.

"Enough of this!" The Angel said with a wave of her hand; she clearly wanted to more answers, but could no longer bear hearing his voice.

In the waving of her hand, Slae was immediately thrust back toward his body which fell limp and already began returning to Slae’s normal self.

Slae opened his eyes, and looked up at the Angel of Light sitting upon her throne in all her glory. He was back in his body but felt like he had awakened from a dream that was just out of the reaches of his memory. He rubbed a bit at his head, standing to his feet.

"Slae," she began without hesitation, "I have brought you here to share with you a story. About a mysterious young man in which unfathomable power to rule all the universe resided, though much of his power was unknown, even to the heavenly hosts. He was unique and having no parents, he was adopted by a couple on the first Earth. Despite the love of his earthly parents, he never stopped feeling a deep loneliness.”

Slae stopped her a moment, “Wait… I do not think I understand. You are telling me a story?” The Angel nodded, “Why? And why was I unconscious a moment ago?”

The Angel smiled through her frustration, “The story is to help you grow. As far as being unconscious, I cannot say.”

“Alright… Why was the boy orphaned?” Slae asked.

“He appeared at the gates of Paradise in a powerful quaking that broke the pillars of the gate. May I continue now?”

Slae was taken aback. The Angel of Light was asking him? In his first conversation with her, she dominated the conversation as she saw fit, then he noticed the glint of ire in her eyes, and he swallowed in a short nod toward her.

"Very well.” The Angel continued her story, “The first universe in which he lived was much smaller than this one, containing only one planet with life. It was a place of paradise where no death or evil ensued. But at the decision of a single High Council Elder, wicked desires were imprinted on the hearts of everyone. This done in the name of balance; though most were ignorant of the change.

"Yet there were three magicians, men of renown whom used their gifts for entertainment. They were aware of the change taking place; a new energy in their hearts. They sought to understand the energy, yet they did not know with what they tampered with. Even so, having discovered immense new power in the strange energy they resolved to learn all they could and eventually their good hearts dissolved into evil. Each one specialized in a fundamental law of the universe for the sole purpose of having power over it. The three as one could alter the physical realm to their choosing.

"With their hearts tainted, their desire for power grew. They used spells to bring the first group of people under their control and from there others followed. When they had a tenth of the world's population under their control they emerged for what they truly were. The powers of darkness had corrupted their appearance and no one recognized them. With their appearance came the first publicly known and explicit act of evil.

"In front of an entire world watching they sacrificed a young woman to their dark power in a binding pact. The sacrifice worked to feed the evil and their powers amassed to even greater potential. The entire world soon went to war and armies of innumerable sizes fought against each other. However, that which opposed the three, was not enough.

"Every day their influence increased. Every day the forces of good lost numbers to the darkness and the entire planet fell under their rule. They ruthlessly killed anyone who did not share their ideology. Despite this, all hope was not lost, for the young boy matured into a man. He decided that it was time to fight back. His generation was strong and hardened from years of conflict and survival. When they gathered to fight they proved themselves a threat.

"They had nearly assassinated the three magicians and were able to free the minds and hearts of many people. Yet it was still not enough. The three magicians found the place where the young man and his armies resided. From there the three were able to hunt down every living person who remained true to the powers of good. All that is, except the boy.

"Despite the wickedness of the three, the side of good had already procured it a warrior to fight. Alone he stood against the entire world; alone and unaware of the extraordinary power that was in him. It was at the very conception of his death that the power erupted. He had little control over these powers, powers that made the might of the three look like the mere entertainers they once were.

"In his first unintentional act, he charred half the planet, killing many in the process. Exhaustion then overtook him and he later awoke knowing what he had done. But in his awakening he was reborn with wisdom and knowledge from ages past. He knew the battle must continue if his planet had any chance of survival." She stopped suddenly and looked at Slae.

Slae was lost in the story, and asked, "Did he win?"

"That is not important; what you must understand is that in war there is risk and possible loss of innocent life. Some of these tragedies may be your fault while others may be out of your control. You can dwell upon them and let it destroy you. Or you can understand the risk, get back up and fight for what is right.”

In reality Quweaign wanted to tell Slae that ‘yes, the boy did win’, but recalls that his victory was as such cost, that that universe was abandoned.

“This shall not be an easy battle and it will prove more difficult than we can perceive. You must decide now on how it will define you or all is lost. Do you understand?" Quweaign was quite stern toward Slae, who simply nodded.

“May I ask another question…” Slae was hesitant but the Angel nodded gently, “If his universe was the first and there was none like him, how can he have wisdom of ages past?”

Quweaign was taken aback at Slae’s astute observation, “That is a good question. Hadr-” The Angel stopped, breathed and continued, “He often said it was more like wisdom of ages forward. All that was known of the young man was that he could not be aligned to a timeline, as though he was born outside of time. It was also found that his power’s signature was remarkably similar to an ancient being in which his life’s blood was akin to lightning.”

Quweaign opened her mouth and spoke some more, but her words were suddenly inaudible and then, she was gone. Slae felt the sand shifting beneath his feet and through the water trees began to grow until they peaked above the ocean. Slae felt like he was falling as the ground rose quickly and the sand beneath his feet retreated just as fast. Suddenly he was standing in the forest, where he had been before. He sighed and did the only thing he could do; continue onward in his travels.

He now was beginning to understand that what was in him was only as important as what he did with it. He could continue to sulk over his setbacks, and loss of memory or he could focus on doing what is right and using his gifts toward that goal. In doing so, Slae was also understanding that he would naturally learn more about himself as he progressed.


Written By - JL Tracey

Original Edits: Whitney Duque
Additional Edits: Joyce Tugan and Brittany T.
Final Edits: JL Tracey

Contributors - Bre'Lynn Ross, Dennis Peck., Julie S., Angie M.

About the Author

J. L. Tracey is a published author of the book Last Hero, with 6 collective years of creative writing (2yrs of serious writing!). While most of his writing is private, J. L. Tracey does have some small published works on the hubpages and works to bring more. He is a family man and loves being out doors disc golfing or playing just about any game. When not spending time with his family or pursuing hobbies, Tracey enjoys day dreaming too much; developing ideas and characters for fictional works.

Contact the Author

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© 2015 JL Tracey


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