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Summer 1986

Monday, July 21st

            They weren’t supposed to be here, but that had never stopped the two children in the past.  The fallen leaves beneath their sneaker-clad feet crunched noisily as the young boy and girl made their way as furtively as they knew how towards the small clearing they’d so come to enjoy.  She could hear their very heartbeats quicken as they approached, the prospect of being somewhere they knew they weren’t allowed causing their blood to race.  Human children it seemed were most alive when they went against the wishes of their elders, an amusing trait that she had long found admirable.  Of course, children of her race had not been so very different.  She had been a prime example of the defiance that was a part of youth. 

            Such thoughts left her as they often did, wistful and pining for a past that she could never again experience.  Whispers in the back of her mind sought to soothe her troubled soul, offering a balm that still failed to entirely comfort her.  Her eyes shone despite their absence of light as she recalled the days of her girlhood, the memories enough to make her eyes water.  As the children drew closer however she quickly composed herself, keeping her place among the shadows of the trees.

            The boy, blonde of hair and strong of spirit, tensed as though he might have heard something, his striking blue eyes peering about the small clearing the children had come to.  She almost gasped as the child’s gaze roamed towards her, though his eyes passed over her hiding place without spotting where she stood.  It was irrational to be so concerned about the scrutiny of a child, though this lad was far unlike any she’d ever met in her life before. 

            She’d been present at his birth and had watched him grow, marveling at the strength of spirit the child exhibited.  The girl beside him was only slightly less bright in her ageless eyes, matching her friend as though the two were candles that sought to burn themselves out first.  Such an analogy pained her for she couldn’t help but realize that this fate was the shortcoming of the girl’s race.  Humans were such a tragic species, born to spend only a handful of years upon their world before passing on to the next.  Still, they were defiant in the face of their plight, always looking forward to what would come next.

            In this light she couldn’t help but respect them just a bit as a species.  They knew that they were upon this world for only a limited time, though they strove ever on towards a future that they could just barely hint at.  In the time she had watched the fledgling species evolve the mysterious woman had seen them achieve marvels that in the day of her people would have seemed quite curious.  At times she had likened the race of mankind to a pack of animals that had learned how to wield tools and other such items to make their world both simplistic and more complex at the same time. 

            From the simplest and most humble beginnings humankind had entertained thoughts of reaching the stars that lay upon the velvety night sky above them.  They were an imaginative people, filled with ideas and musings that her people had entertained in their own ways before.  The difference however between her race and that of humans had always been that her people had managed to balance their desires with those of the world around them, sharing themselves rather than subjugating the land as humans did.  This

was perhaps one of their greatest failings as a species.  Humans knew very little of how to balance their lives with the land around them, their numbers swelling and thus consuming far more land than should have been needed to insure their survival.  They were a confusing species at times to behold, though they did have their redeeming qualities.

            As she continued to watch the boy and girl she focused more upon the boy, sensing in him a kindred spirit of sorts that she’d not known in far too long.  He would grow strong she could determine, like the rest of his kind before him.  Yet he was an anomaly, something that should not have existed in this time and place.  There he was though, fearless in the way of all children that did not yet understand their world.  The clearing in which the children now found themselves was as familiar to them it seemed as the rest of the wilds that lay beyond their home only a mile in the distance.  She couldn’t help but smile as she watched the two children make a show of darting into the trees and then back out, laughing as they played with one another. 

            At one point in time she and her fellow children had been much the same, playing with one another when not attending to their studies or the duties handed to them by the adults.  Not a single one of her kind had ever discouraged the children from being children, showing understanding of the ways of innocence no matter how foolish their actions had seemed.  It was a mark of being new to the world, being able to frolic about as children were wont to do.  Every day was new, every experience was fresh and unsullied by a lifetime of knowledge.  It was a cruel world that stripped such innocence from its children whenever it so desired.

            “We always come here Tyler. Why can’t we just go to the beach instead?”  the girl asked, her voice semi-serious as she scanned the clearing with her eyes.  The boy, Tyler, acted as though he’d not heard at first, peering intently into one of the two structures that lay within the boundaries of the clearing.  The concrete cylinder had been within this place for many years now, since before either child had been born or perhaps even thought of.  Its simple interior was littered with dead leaves, the shells and corpses of many insects and several other items such as a rotting wood ladder, milk jugs that had lain empty for some time and a moldering workbench that was devoid of anything save a few rusted wires and pieces of plastic. 

            “Cause mom and dad told us they don’t want us on the beach without them.  They’re afraid we’ll go out too deep in the water or something.”  Tyler rolled his eyes as he spoke, peering deeper into the shadows as he took a step forward.  The girl was right on his heels as she too looked deeper into the cylinder. There wasn’t much to see, though to children everything had the air of mystique, the simplest of things could at times be the most ominous or wondrous.  She watched as the girl stopped next to a metal box that was bolted against the inner left wall of the cylinder, attempting to study the clipped and frayed wires that protruded from the innards of the box.  To watch the girl was almost comical since the box was high enough that she had to look up. 

            “I don’t think they’d want us out here either.” the girl said, reaching tentatively towards the box. She could just reach the bare wires that were poking of the metal frame like some strange weeds, though as her fingers brushed the bared ends she flinched, her eyes scrunching shut as she took a step back.  From her vantage point the woman could see the tiny arc of electricity that had danced from the end of the wire to the girl’s outstretched fingers, though that should have been impossible.  The small breaker box that had once fueled this station had been dead and inert for years.  There were no electrical currents of any kind running to the structure, its every last connection had been bled dry before it had been disconnected from use.  Yet she had seen the tiny surge of electricity that had leapt from the box to the girl, as though seeking out a conduit of sorts.  Her eyes narrowed just a bit as the girl rubbed her fingers idly, not speaking a word to the boy of what had just happened.  This was most curious. 

            “We don’t live in the city Kera.  There’s no bums out here to grab us.”  Tyler said, still looking over the contents of the cylinder.  There was something of interest here he could tell, though so far all he saw was junk.  It was interesting junk, but it was still junk.  He couldn’t quite shake the feeling that someone or something was watching them, though he had already dismissed the notion as nothing more than nerves.  His parents were always telling him and Kera to be careful when they went out into the woods.  His mother was constantly telling him that he should wait until either Sareena or Garrett could go with them.  His older siblings liked it out here too, though they would no doubt rather be out here with their boy and girlfriends rather than their younger siblings.

            “Oh yeah?  Then where did all this stuff come from?”  Tyler shrugged his shoulders as he replied.

            “Whoever left it here isn’t here anymore.  Stop being a baby.”  Kera smacked him lightly on the shoulder by way of reply as she walked over to him, smiling to let Tyler know that it was all in fun.

            Kera had been included into his family when she was only two years old, nearly four years ago.  Her family had included only Dale and Ellen Turmish, her mother and father.  Dale had been a friend of Gary Ferris, Tyler’s father; the two men had worked alongside one another for a number of years in the city of Warrenton at the lumber mill.  Gary had moved on from that particular line of work shortly before Tyler had been born, though Dale had remained at the mill.  The two men had remained good friends and had used this bridge to strengthen the bond between their families, or at least they’d tried.  Dale had died due to a tragic accident within the mill when Kera had been only two years old.  The stress that had been placed upon Ellen after his death had proven to be too great, causing the woman to suffer a complete mental breakdown.  She’d been proven unfit as a mother shortly after and Kera had been bound for a foster care home since the ties to any of Ellen or Dale’s extended family had withered long ago. 

            Thankfully for the girl there had been clause in Dale’s will, one that had just barely saved the girl from living a life among the many children who had no home.  Dale had always thought of his daughter first, placing all his hopes on his little girl, just as Ellen had.  It had been during one of her few lucid moments within the Astoria Community Hospital that Ellen had tearfully said goodbye to her daughter before signing over custody to Gary and Evelyn Ferris, the two friends that had truly cared for her and Dale.  The Ferris’s had always been good friends and been entrusted with the care of Kerian Turmish shortly after her father’s death.  Ellen had not lived long enough to do much more than say goodbye and give her daughter a chance at a better life.  She had killed herself not long after Kera had seen her. 

            She had only been two at the time and as such had only hazy memories of her mother’s face, though in her dreams she could often remember what the woman looked like.  Kera had kept a picture of her family, a pleasant family photograph that showed Dale, Ellen and herself smiling warmly into the camera, their arms held around one another in such a way that she could not look at the photo for too long.  Even at the tender age of five Kera knew that her parents were never coming back.  Death had already touched her in a way that no child is ever prepared for, taking from her something she’d not realized she had to lose. 

            The Ferris’s had welcomed her into their home with open arms, easily making room for her within their lives as Tyler had been told he would be sharing his room with the two-year old for a time.  Garrett and Sareena had been forced to share a room until the children had grown a little, grumbling only a bit until they’d grown used to the proximity.  Kera and Tyler had grown surprisingly fast, as though their bodies were eager to accommodate their already irascible and explorative natures.  Many times in the past few years Gary had been forced to tell the two rambunctious children not to wander off into the woods by themselves.  Even now he likely wasn’t aware of how far off they were.  Gary and Evelyn Ferris were hardworking individuals that at times had been forced to struggle to support their family.  Four kids had a way of demanding greater wages and longer hours at times, which was why neither of them were at home at that moment.   

            Garrett and Sareena were supposed to be watching them, though their older siblings, Kera was thought of as a little sister, were no doubt at this moment planted in front of the television watching one of the ten channels that they were able to watch.  Television reception this far out was iffy at best unless one had a dish or the money to purchase cable.  A simple antenna didn’t always cut it. 

            The children reminded her so much of herself and one other, when they had romped throughout this land just as carefree as these two.  Casting her gaze downward the woman pressed her lips together as a familiar tingle ran along her shoulder blades, as though someone were caressing her gently.  She closed her eyes in that moment as she tried to push the memory away, not wishing to relive such tender moments when she knew that the one who had invoked them was so terribly imprisoned.  He would never be freed if she’d had a choice, though the Lady knew that eventually would come his time to walk upon the world once more.  There would be balance, even at the cost it would bring. 

                                                *                      *                      *

Many, many centuries ago…

            The warm sunlight bathed her form as the young girl sat upon the light gray sands that covered the stretch of land her people called home.  Her kind had existed upon this area for many generations, finding it a peaceful haven away from the rest of the world that was becoming a bit crowded with the rise of humanity.  Their kind was no longer as numerous as it had once been, in fact there were only several dozen clans over the face of the world where once there had been many hundreds.   The Argen Nebul clan, or Silver Mist in the many tongues of the humans, had settled here millennia ago, a time that was far more to the short-lived race than their own. 

            Her kind could weather centuries without anything more to show upon their bodies than perhaps a wrinkle brought on by stress.  The race that knew themselves as Shapers were the eldest of the races that lived upon this world, though they were still young in comparison to the Creator, the one being that had given birth to everything with the All, the gathered force that governed each and every last being within this realm.  She knew enough about the All and the Creator from her lessons, though as her elders always advised her, no one would ever know everything there was to know.  The world was ever in motion, always presenting itself in new ways to its occupants and offering new experiences that would defy the norm. 

            “You always come out here.  Is there a special feel to this place that the others and myself can’t sense?”  Aliyana smiled warmly as she turned to gaze at the young man that stood behind her now, his own smile thin as his eyes took in her countenance.  Sivis was of the clan Ura Incido, or Shadow Flames.  His clan were among those who kept the strictest adherence to the opposite side of the balance that all Shapers were charged with keeping. 

            “It is peaceful out here.”  Aliyana replied, patting the sand next to her as Sivis came forward, his full head of blonde hair bouncing as he sat by her.  Each of them wore their own finely made robes, his dark and hers light to signify the dedication of their clan.  Those who sought to keep in check the Dark were still brothers and sisters, though those that sought to keep the Light from overcoming the balance did not envy their position.  The Dark was a seductive and very dangerous force, old when even this world had been but a thought within the Creator’s unknown mind.  To tread too closely to the infectious realm was to court disaster.  She had faith in this young man though, she had to.  They’d been lovers now for nearly ten years.  That was not such a long time in the life of a Shaper, in fact each Shaper ever born had endured an apprenticeship to their people for nearly a century before they were considered worthy of taking their place among their clans as those who were charged with keeping the balance.  Until then they were children, learners that were not trusted enough to accept such a responsibility. 

            Aliyana and Sivis had each passed their trials and finished their apprenticeships nearly five years before, earning their right to stand among their elders.  She was only a few years younger than he, though each of them were well over two hundred years old at this point.  This was one of the many reasons that, like their fellow immortals the Ellevayne, Shapers did not associate with humankind.  Humans did not understand the concept of immortality except through their belief in a higher being.  In order to attain eternal life many of them believed they would have to die so that their spirit could live in heaven for all time.  Aliyana wondered what they would think if they knew that their spirits were simply used again and again, the energy that fueled their bodies moving from one place to the next.  Many of them would no doubt call her a heretic or a witch if she were to reveal such a truth to them.  Their minds were not equipped enough to deal with such a revelation, not when they had already convinced themselves of their own mortality. 

            Humans, Ellevayne and Shapers were not all that different.  They each shared the same form, though Ellevayne did so by choice, not out of necessity.  They each bled the same, for the most part and they each lived upon the same realm.  Aliyana knew though that by dint of their own self-set limitations that the humans would never allow the presence of one who could live forever among their numbers.  Such a being would be persecuted and hounded until the day of their death, which in the case of her kind or the Ellevayne would see the demise of the humans first.  They were curious race, though they were also very dangerous when riled.

            “I’ve discovered something I want to show you.”  Sivis said quietly, casting his gaze out upon the rolling waves of the ocean.  Aliyana turned to look at him then, frowning slightly as she saw the vacant look in his pale yellow eyes.  His eye color had been with him since birth, though it was not completely unheard of.  Those who monitored the Dark often began to pick up such traits, some even possessed veins and patches of flesh that had turned almost black or sickly yellow. The exposure to the Dark was such that some contamination was to be expected, though thankfully much of it was easy enough to expunge from a person’s body.  Sivis’s eyes were a different matter, the eyes were far too delicate to withstand such a cleansing. 

            “What is it?” she asked, shifting to face him.  Sivis smiled wide this time, showing his brilliant white teeth as his thin-boned features stretched as he looked at her.  Aliyana couldn’t help but feel a stab of apprehension, though she could not understand why this would be so. This was the man she had chosen to be her mate at a later time, when they were each ready to settle and begin their own family.  Why would she feel afraid of him? 

            “Come with me,” he said, taking her hand gently into his as he rose, “It’s easier to explain if we’re standing in front of it.”  Aliyana hesitated for only a moment, feeling a strange chill from where Sivis had grasped her hand.  She didn’t want to show him that she was alarmed, though as she stood Aliyana could feel the frantic energy that seemed to be pent up inside of her lover.  He was truly excited about something, though she could not tell what that might be.

                                                *                      *                      *

            They arrived upon a small, secluded area only a short time later, a spot that each of them knew very well.  This was the site of the Prime Gate, the one gateway that would link all others in the world.  The depths of the gate were unknown to anyone upon this realm, though the knowledge of how to utilize the many pathways that extended beyond its opening was common knowledge to those who had used them so extensively.  At the moment the gate was hidden away as was normal, the elder Shapers did not summon the Prime Gate into existence unless it were needed, leaving it well away from prying eyes until such moments came. 

            “It is just over here, in this thicket.”  Sivis said, pulling her along by the hand as Aliyana kept her gaze upon the gate, pulling her eyes away only a moment later as Sivis stopped.  Looking back to the young man she saw a manic look of glee pass over his features as he looked straight ahead, his eyes widened as he smiled upon the object of his desire.  Aliyana followed his gaze, frowning lightly as she kept a small smile upon her face.  What she saw in the next moment erased that smile quickly as she recoiled, tearing her hand free of the young man’s as she took several steps backward.

            There, looking like a slash upon the very fabric of the world, was a dark rent that measured no more than an arm’s length in height, a rip as they were called.  A rip within the delicate fabric of this world was not a natural occurrence. No matter how thin the veils were between the realms of Light, Dark and this world Aliyana knew that none could possibly break them without help.  As she looked to Sivis she could see the confusion wrinkle his brow as he shook his head softly, advancing a single step towards her with his hands held palms forward.

            “Do not be afraid, I made this rip, no one else.  The Dark will not intrude unless I invite it, you know this.” Aliyana did know that no force from the realms of Light or Dark could possibly penetrate this world unless given free invitation.  There was no misinterpreting this meaning, those who were not summoned or invited were simply not allowed to cross.  Opening a rip was not an invitation, though it was an extremely dangerous step in that direction.  How had he done this?  Aliyana shook her head, not wanting to believe Sivis’s words as he continued towards her.

            “The Dark is nothing to be feared Aliyana, my people have existed close to its borders for many generations now, we know its secrets and we know it can be harnessed.  Shapers should not fear the Dark or the Light, we are the masters of such realms in that we can allow or deny them entry to this world.”

            “Close the rip Sivis, please.”  Her voice was quiet as she spoke, the plea reaching his ears as she stopped advancing upon her.  Aliyana felt fear unlike anything she’d ever known at that moment, a pure and unyielding terror that gripped at her heart with its icy fingers as she gazed imploringly at her lover.  Sivis shook his head as he smiled again, closing his eyes as though he hadn’t heard her correctly.

            “There’s no need to close the rip my love, it obeys my word, those beyond will do as I say or they will suffer our wrath.  Don’t you see? We can harness the power of the Dark and when we’re ready, we can harness the Light as well!  We can be more powerful than even the elders, more powerful than any of our kind!  Come with to the rip Aliyana, come feel the power that flows through, it’s wonderful beyond belief!  This is power, this is the feeling of the universe at your fingertips!  Come with me love, share this wondrous moment with me!”  Aliyana knew at that moment that Sivis had changed somehow, that he had already tapped into the so-called wondrous power that he spoke so candidly of.  Her heart wrenched as she realized this, tearing in two as she began to think that perhaps Sivis had been at this practice for a while. 

            No one, not even the elders, would dare to open a rip between this world and the primal realms that existed beyond.  It was a far too dangerous concept for anyone to even conceive of, a danger to the very realm they called home.  That Sivis had the audacity to think he could control the Dark was ludicrous enough, though the fact that he had opened a rip so close to the Prime Gate, where if even one daemon, creatures of an ancient world, were allowed through the world would shake to its foundations.  Though it was still a young world in the eyes of the Creator, Aliyana knew that such a force as the Dark would seek to shatter the fledgling realm, no doubt seeking to end all life as was its wont to do.  It was without hesitation that she spoke next, steeling herself as much as possible as she looked disconsolately at her lover.  This was not the same man she had fallen in love with years ago, yet her heart said differently.

            “No.”  Sivis recoiled as if struck, his eyes widening even further as he pulled his hands back towards his body.  She might well have thrust a burning brand into his hands for as fast as they recoiled, though in truth she felt as though she were severing a bond between them that could never be repaired. 

            “No?  But, but how can, why would you, I, I don’t understand.”

            “The Dark has long been your people’s responsibility Sivis, it is not your right to meddle with such a force!”  Aliyana yelled at him, tears forming at the corners of her eyes as she looked upon her lover.  The young man shook his head as though he still didn’t understand, his lips working as though he wished to say something but could not.  His eyes were still focused upon her, though she could see something beyond the gleeful emotions that were swiftly fading.  Aliyana could see what looked like shock, betrayal and even hurt.  She could see that Sivis was close to breaking as she took another step away.

            “So you would not share this with me.” he said softly, hanging his head just a bit as he looked down towards the ground.  Aliyana did her best to stiffen her upper lip as it threatened to tremble, “You would deny me the right of power, and you will most likely report my glory to the elders.”  His voice took on a deadly edge as he continued to speak, his eyes raising towards hers as Aliyana saw the deadly gleam that came to his yellow gaze.  “This I cannot allow.”  Aliyana could feel the sudden surge of power before it materialized in the form of a large shaft of wood that suddenly came hurtling at her from somewhere in the brush, arrowing straight for her body as she watched in stunned disbelief. 

            Only at the last moment did she react, exerting her will just as Sivis had to affect the land around them.  Lifting both hands quickly Aliyana focused her plea towards the sand and dirt at their feet, watching as the land responded by throwing a wall in front of her that quickly intercepted the hurtling weapon.  The wooden shaft splintered and shattered against the wall of sand and dirt, sending fragments in every direction as Aliyana dropped her hands, her teeth ground together as she saw Sivis standing on the other side of the collapsing wall. 

            “You’ve kept up with your practice, as have I.”  The young man reached out with both hands, drawing them close to his body as she could feel yet another wave of power ripple outward from his body.  Before she could move Aliyana felt as roots, tendrils and other vegetation wrapped themselves around her ankles and wrists, pulling her forward and to her knees as she landed with a harsh thud upon the ground.  Her teeth clacked over her tongue, drawing blood as Aliyana grimaced in pain.  Her raven black locks swished forward then into her vision, faintly obscuring Sivis from sight as he strode forward.  Tasting blood within her mouth Aliyana had a thought of how to counteract her lover’s power, though the practice of such a force was highly suspect and not well respected among her clan.  There was however no choice at this moment as she could see within his eyes that Sivis meant to kill her. 

            Even an immortal could die, it was simply much harder than it was to kill a mortal.  As the power flowed throughout her body Aliyana allowed the saliva and blood within her mouth to mix, leaning forward as she spat a reddish glob upon the ground at Sivis’s feet.  Before he could react Aliyana uttered a horrid shriek that sounded not unlike the hunting cry of a hawk blended with the keening death wail of many an animal.  Sivis cursed her vehemently as he moved to backhand Aliyana, his eyes flaring with power as the sickly yellow color seemed to leak from his sockets.  Before he could even raise his hand though he was driven back as a mass of feathers and claws suddenly alit upon his face, tearing and ripping as the cry was repeated, though this time from the thin throat of the hawk that had alit upon Sivis’s face. 

            The bird was not the only creature summoned to the cry as heavy and light steps could be heard throughout the small clearing as the creatures of the land converged upon the subject of her focus.  Aliyana was quick to liberate herself from the vines and vegetation as she sough to put a great deal of distance between herself and the growing number of creatures that now hid away her lover.  Her heart beat quickly as she looked back only once, seeing that Sivis had been overtaken by the mass of animals that she had conjured with her blood summoning.  The practice was dependent upon the living ecosystem and its inhabitants, drawing them forward with the scent of blood that was desirable to so many creatures.  It was a partial enslavement of the creatures, giving the practice the qualities that made it so undesirable to her people.  Such a summoning had only ever been used when absolutely necessary, though at this moment Aliyana had found it to be more than necessary, she had found it unavoidable.  As she ran she could hear Sivis screaming, though whether it was in rage or pain she could not tell.  Aliyana did not look back again.

                                                *                      *                      *

            She returned only shortly with several elders, leading them to the site where Sivis had supposedly fallen.  What they found was less than inviting, though it was not nearly as gruesome as she would have thought.  The Prime Gate was still hidden and as one elder could sense had not been activated recently.  What they saw nearly halfway between the gate and where Sivis had opened his rip though was regrettable as well as tragic.  Spread about in a rough circle, as though each creature had been expelled from all directions, were the many beasts that had been summoned to attack her lover.

            Aliyana had told the elders of her actions in shame, though when she had explained the reasoning behind the summoning they had been more alarmed to hear of the rip than her transgression.  A blood summoning was to be used only by elders, though apprentices and others were taught its use.  The prospect of a rip within the fabric of this reality though had gotten their attention in a way that she had fully expected.  Within moments four elders had sent a search party to look for Sivis and bring him to heel and had then taken Aliyana to the site to explain herself. 

            “A death circle.” one of the elders said, looking grimly at the broken and twisted forms of the creatures that lay all around.  Aliyana had heard of this effect, though never had she dared to learn how to apply it.  The blood summoning was bad enough, but to kill so indiscriminately was absolutely horrid. 

            “How did he grow this powerful?” one of the elders wondered aloud.  No one could give the woman an answer, though as Aliyana knelt beside the form of the hawk that had attacked her lover she stroked the dead bird’s neck, silently apologizing for her actions. 

            “Over here!” cried one of the elders.  The group of them made their way to where the rip had been created, stopping only when they came to a series of symbols that had been burned into the ground.  Aliyana’s blood ran cold as she recognized the symbol that lay at the end of the dire threat, her breathing growing thin as she felt her heart twist in agony. 

            I have been betrayed, let the war for the balance begin.

                                                *                      *                      *

            Thus the war had started, and the extermination of their people had been almost assured.  The race of Shapers had gone to war, though it had been conflict that none had walked away from unscathed.  In fact, only Aliyana had walked away in the end.  Her kind had chosen self-imposed exile within the Joining, the act of gathering their entire race, defeated and triumphant both, into a collective that was to be held by only one of their number.  As individuals they’d had no chance of defeating Sivis, he’d been far too powerful by the time the war had concluded.  As a collective however the Shapers had agreed that one individual would be enough to reign in the power-maddened despot that had caused the near extinction of his people.  And thus she had been given the trust of an entire race, the responsibility falling heavily upon her slim shoulders.

            A sudden peal of laughter rang out, startling Aliyana as she watched Tyler and Kera chasing each other around the clearing, stopping quickly now and then to change direction as they laughed loudly.  The sounds caused her to smile as the memories of so long ago faded quietly, relegated once more to the darkness of her mind.  Closing her eyes for a moment Aliyana could hear the many voices within the depths of her soul that had awoken only recently, listening absently to them as several clambered about the boy, their voices chiming together as they beseeched her to act now, to do what was necessary and do it now.  Aliyana ignored this command, knowing in her heart that to deny the boy his childhood was wrong. 

            There would come a time when the boy would be made to know who he was and why he was so important, but it was not now.  She would deny no child their right to enjoy their younger years, no matter how dire the consequences might become later on.  Lowering her gaze Aliyana closed her eyes once more as she could almost feel the echoes of her battle between her former lover upon this site, the terror that had filled her heart coming to the fore just then as she could remember the feral gleam that had come to his eyes as he had tried to end her life.  Sivis had been at one time the one man in all existence that she would die for, her one true love in all ways.  He had betrayed that for power, for a chance to dominate others, and yet he had felt as though she had turned her back on him.

            Aliyana knew that her former love would be released soon enough, though not yet. His evil had torn apart great swaths of the world at one time, tearing at the land with the force of his terrible will as the Shapers had gone to war.  Never once in their long existence had they known such conflict, a terrible schism that had in effect created many of the landmarks that existed to this day.  Mountains had been razed and new valleys and canyons formed with the intensity of their battles as Shapers both powerful and still fledgling had torn at one another with crazed abandon.  The skies and even the mighty oceans had been utilized to great extent as the separate factions of her kind had fought for what they believed, forsaking the balance in order to prove the other wrong. 

            Even the Ellevayne had become involved at one time, casting their lot with either side as they had been drawn into the ensuing conflict.  Humans had of course been left out of the mix, their intellects were to up to the task of assimilating the awesome forces that had been used and would have snapped at many sights that had been revealed.  The shadowy gateways between this realm and those of the Light and Dark had been sundered for a time, allowing denizens of each world to spill forth into this world as they had joined the fight, their natural animosities allowing them the rage and fervor with which to aid or harm those they joined in combat. 

            Daemons, angels and all other manner of creatures that called the Dark or Light home had done battle most terrible within this realm, subsiding only when the war had finally ended with the defeat of those that served the Dark.  Banished as punishment to their own realm, those who served the Dark had vowed to return once more, though Aliyana had known the threat was an empty one, no matter how powerful many of the daemons had proven to be.  They would be imprisoned until her former love made the mistake of letting them loose again, just as she knew he would.  There was no act of depravity, no low to which he would not stoop, just as there was no possible way for her to stop him when next he emerged.  Her power was waning even now as she could feel the time coming upon her when she would be required to loose the energies of the Chosen upon the world once more.  Only a handful of times in history had she seen the necessity for such power, though in the times to come Aliyana knew that the Chosen would be needed most by those who called this world home. 

            Humanity did not know its peril, though many who were called crazy at least suspected.  Many believed the world would end in fire, or ice, or other such elemental and unstoppable ways, though Aliyana knew better.  The fabric of this realm would be sundered not by anything that had to do with its own natural cycle, but by a foe that few among Earth could possibly fathom.  The Dark possessed many forms of attack, all of them heinous and terrible in their own ways, though Aliyana could already guess at which ones her former lover might use.  She could only pray that the Chosen she selected would be capable of stopping him.  It was hope, and that alone, that would have to sustain her.

                                                *                      *                      *

            “I told you that branch wasn’t strong enough.”  Kera said, shaking her head as she grinned broadly at Tyler.  She didn’t consider any of the Ferris’s as a blood relative would, especially not Tyler.  There was something about him that just didn’t seem the way a brother should, as though Kera could sense that somehow they were meant to be more someday.  At this point she had heard Evelyn Ferris say that it was puppy love, something that all children went through, but she wasn’t sure.  Of course, Evelyn was an adult, she probably knew better than she did.  Kera trusted many of the adults in her life, they were hardly ever wrong.  Maybe it was just because she was a kid like Garrett said sometimes, but she could swear that she and Tyler were meant to be a little more than friends later on.

            “Yeah, yeah.”  Tyler said, plucking another thorn from the inside of his left forearm.  He’d just had to show Kera how high he could climb and now he was paying for it.  How was he supposed to know that there was a large patch of blackberry vines under that one weak branch?  Picking out another thorn he kept walking as the two of them turned right onto their road, I Place.  The path they’d taken had led from  the road to the brush in a roughly straight shot into the woods.  Once past a gravel path that served as a long driveway for a couple that lived up on the hill, the Rogers the sign read, it was off into the woods they went. 

            Tyler loved living on the coast, it was like a giant jungle gym that he and Kera could go exploring in whenever they wanted.  The fact that his parents wanted them to be escorted was okay, but they’d managed to go out on their own time and again without fail, always half listening to his mother’s words of caution about strangers.  If there were any strangers they’d just avoid them, Tyler and Kera knew the woods like the backs of their hands, it was almost impossible to get lost for a long period of time. 

            “Did you feel anything funny today?”  Kera asked him, flipping her long brown locks behind her as she turned to regard Tyler.  He arched his eyebrows at her as he frowned lightly, plucking another thorn from his arm.

            “I’m not feeling really “funny” right now Ker.”  he replied, running his hand over his arm as he searched for any thorns that might have been driven deeper when he’d been thrashing to get free of the blackberry vines. 

            “It felt like someone was watching us.”  Tyler snorted as she kept her eyes on him, obviously not believing that her words carried any merit, “I’m serious Ty, it really felt like someone was watching us.”

            “The only things watching us would have been birds and maybe a few squirrels Ker, we were alone out there.”  Kera nodded her head as she listened to Tyler’s words, twisting her lips as she thought that he might be right.  It had still felt as though someone were watching them, that prickly feeling on the back of her neck hadn’t been caused by nothing.  And that small arc of electricity that had sparked against her fingers, the one she hadn’t told him about, that hadn’t been her imagination either.  She knew just as well as Tyler did that the old power station was inert and quite dead, there wasn’t a bit of juice left in the place.  It had been that way for a long time she guessed, longer than either of them had been born at least. 

            “I guess.  Do you think your parents are home yet?”  Kera had always referred to Gary and Evelyn by their names, which the Ferris’s had always accepted despite treating her like a daughter.  Kera had yet to truly feel at home, though she was grateful for the family that had taken her in.  As she had already been told she would have been sent to a foster home if not for the kindness of the Ferris’s and her father’s will.  Though she didn’t know him well Kera found sometimes that she missed her father, the images that sprang to mind in her dreams allowing her to believe that her father had been a kind and good man.  Gary had told her pleasant stories about her mother and father when they’d been younger, before she’d been born, stories that Kera had thoroughly enjoyed.  She could tell that both Gary and Evelyn missed her parents as well, the four adults had been friends after all. 

            “You have your watch on. What time is it?”  Kera looked at her My Little Pony watch as Tyler asked, seeing that digital readout told her it was nearly three o’ clock in the afternoon.  Evelyn would be getting off of her shift at the Motel 8 soon and Gary would be at work until around five or five thirty.  The man worked as a general manager at Okie’s Sentry in Ocean Park and sometimes stayed late to make sure the evening shift was well taken care of and well-directed.  Nearly everyone the two worked with enjoyed their presence, earning the Ferris’s their positions at the head of their respective workplaces years before.  Evelyn was the head housekeeper and often ran the motel in Longbeach when the owners were on vacation or attending some seminar or another.  Each of the adults worked hard to provide for their children and what they hoped would be a nice retirement one day.  Kera couldn’t feel any more lucky than to have been taken in by such a family.

            “Your mom should be getting off soon.  Do you think Sareena and Garrett are still there?”

            “I don’t think they’d go off looking for us, they know they wouldn’t find us if we didn’t want them to.”  Tyler replied, rubbing at his left forearm.  Kera gave him a look that suggested he was short a few brain cells as he narrowed his eyes in return.  There were days when she wondered when Tyler would realize he wasn’t invincible.  Like Gary had told them it was the nature of children to believe they could do anything.  She just wished that Tyler didn’t feel the need to test that all the time.

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