The cry of a hawk woke me in the morning. It was a loud, piercing cry capable of waking even the heaviest of sleepers. Opening my eyes I was nearly blinded by the bright light of the sun. A large hawk was sitting on the branch above my head. Looking up my eyes widened and the bird looked down at me. Its large golden eyes stared straight at me and I could tell that this bird was not going to go anywhere even if I threw a rock at it.
"What do you want? Huh? A free meal? Sorry bub, not gonna happen." I told it waving my hand at it. Still it sat there staring at me.
I shook my head again and turned away. Before I could do anything else I heard a loud roar from the deeper area of the trees. My eyes flashed around and after a moment settled on a patch of trembling bushes. Narrowing my eyes I grabbed my bag and braced myself to run. Suddenly the brush stopped moving. A tan, black haired young man stepped out of the bush.
I stared at him for a moment before I realized that the white tiger that I had seen yesterday was standing next to him. Stepping back slightly I turned to move out of the way the man's sapphire blue eyes caught me. The tiger looked at me closely as well. We stared at each other for so long I thought my legs were going to go to sleep on me.
The longer I stared at them the more I realized that they were special. I mean, seriously, no normal man would stand THAT close to a wild animal. He was standing close enough that if the cat decided to attack him there would be no way he could defend himself in time. The tiger itself was an entirely different story as well. It looked as docile as an ordinary house cat. Large ocean blue eyes gazed at me in such a way that I wanted to get up and hug the beast. It took all of my better judgment and common sense to hold myself back.
"Are you alright?"
I shook my head and realized that the man had spoken to me. Being so focused on the tiger I hadn't noticed that he had stepped closer to me. Taking another step back I lifted my head to meet his eyes. Once again my face was an apathetic mask and my voice betrayed no emotion whatsoever.
"I am fine. Just wondering if you are in your right mind." I replied in my usual monotone voice that I used for others.
With a gentle laugh he nodded and held out a hand, "My name is Leo. You are?"
Taking the outstretched hand I said, "My name is Amsel Sapphiregem. Perhaps you've heard of my family?"
Leo gave me an apologetic look and shook his head. I nodded and looked away, releasing his hand. Of course he hasn't heard of them way out here. Speaking of way out here I still didn't know exactly where I was.
"Hey, do you know where we are? I got dumped in the desert yesterday and woke up later in this oasis." I said waving an arm at our surroundings.
"Oh! You are still in the middle of the desert but this is a special place that only special people can enter. This is the Sandara Desert of the Great Southern Country. The oasis, however, has no name I can give you. All I can tell you is that you are very lucky to be here." He said with a smile.
"You have got to be kidding me!" my emotionless façade slipped and shock was displayed on my face for the first time in years.
"I'm not joking around. When it comes to this place I never joke." Leo snapped turning to face the white tiger on the other side of the clearing.
It growled softly at him and he blinked. Turning back around he offered an apologetic smile at me. I stared at him for another moment before turning away myself. This was slowly becoming too much for me to handle. Yesterday I started out in the desert, passed out, and woke up in this oasis. Also I only closed my eyes for a moment and when I opened them again it was the middle of the night. Now this guy, a really hot guy (not that he'll ever find out), was telling me that I was still in the desert and that the oasis was there too.
I well and truly felt like I was losing my mind. Suddenly I felt a warm touch on my thigh. Looking down I realized that the tiger had walked up to me while I was lost in my own head. It looked up at me and nudged me again. Putting out my hand I realized that it was trying to comfort me.
Shaking my head I rubbed it between the ears. A loud rumbling sound echoed from its chest and it leaned gently against me. Leo smiled and waved for me to follow him. With narrowed eyes and cautious steppes I followed him. He seemed to be leading me deeper into the trees and I really didn't like where this was going.
As we walked Leo told me that there were lots of things here that I could do and that some of the most vicious looking animals were actually the nicest of them all. Looking down at the tiger beside me I knew he was right. Normally this big cat would by trying to kill me. Yet here it was walking right beside me, purring like an oversized house cat. The bushes rustled in front of them and Leo stopped suddenly. Only the tiger stepping in front of me kept me from running into him. A large orange head poked out of the bushes and large green eyes blinked at us curiously.
"Well, it looks like you have another friend already, Amsel." Leo laughed gesturing at the big Bengal tiger as it fully emerged from the bushes.
"Why do you say that?" I asked as the white tiger stepped away from me to greet its friend.
"Simple, the Bengal tigers here normally stay well away from the white tigers and any other people that end up here. They are really shy and like to stay in their dens all day."
"Really? Wow…" was all I said as the two cats came back to me.
Against my better judgment I kneeled down and held out my hand to the orange cat. It stared at me for a moment, cocking its head to the right as it scrutinized me. Then, slowly it came forward and let me scratch under its chin. As with the other cat it started purring almost immediately. The other one came up and I rubbed its head too. Soon both of their tails were wagging gently, like a dog's tail.
Watching them I felt the corner of my mouth twitch slightly and shook my head. Leo noticed the start of the smile but before he could say anything about it my face slipped back into its mask. Glancing back at him I saw his face fall and something stabbed at my heart. I looked away but the feeling would not go away. After a moment I gave up on trying to figure out what the feeling was and climbed slowly to my feet.
"What will you name them?" Leo asked, looking at me in a curious way.
"Name them? Why would I name them?" I asked feeling confused but not showing it.
"Well, they are yours now. All the animals here bond with a person and will be with that person for life. You have to name them or they'll think you don't want them. If that happens something really bad will happen to them." He explained with a light wave of his hand.
"I don't…" I mumbled, trailing off.
Both cats looked at me expectantly and I looked down. This was hard for me; I really did want to keep them but at the same time I wanted to send them away. Leo seemed to sense my dilemma and put a gentle hand on my shoulder. I glanced at him and he offered and encouraging smile. Sighing I looked back at the cats. They were still giving me the adoring stares I couldn't ignore.
"Alright… Um…,"I murmured and pointed at the white one and orange one in turn, "I think I'll call you Winter and you Summer. Is that all right?"
Winter's and Summer's eyes lit up and both nodded vigorously. Taking that as a yes I let my mask slip and I smiled. Leo's eyes widened and a huge smile split his face. It took me a moment to realize that he was smiling because I was. Then I realized that this was the first time I had actually smiled because I was happy since I was five. It actually felt really good. Despite that fact my apathetic self reasserted itself and my face became a mask again.
The smile fell from Leo's face but it remained bright in his eyes. He seemed really happy and really surprised at the same time. Just when I had opened up I shut back down again and it didn't seem like I was going to open back up anytime soon.
Summer noticed my change in mood and gave me a curious look. I shook my head at her and patted her head again. She nudged my hand, stepping closer as she did. Winter looked at me with hurt in her eyes. It was obvious that she was feeling my pain. Both were now closely in tune with my feelings, I could tell just by looking at them.
"Amsel… Why don't you smile or show any emotions?" Leo asked softy.
"My past… I don't have any good memories… There is nothing to smile about in my past so I just sealed up all of my emotions." I replied looking away.
"I should think now that you can relax and show your emptions now. You are free here and your family is not here to bother you anymore." He cried throwing his hands up.
"I can't. I have spent too long like this. I can't change who I am just like that!" I yelled spinning on Leo and snapping my fingers.
"You can try! That's all I'm gonna ask of you! Try to change, try to break down that hard shell of yours!"
"No! It's not that easy! No one person can change so quickly! Don't try to make me change so quickly after what my father...!" I stopped when I realized what I was about to say.
Leo stepped back when I choked off after father. It was obvious that I had surprised him. Winter and Summer were looking up at us like two small children and Winter's blue eyes flashed as she realized what I had almost said. She butted her head into the backs of my knees, sending me stumbling forward and into Leo's arms. He gasped in surprise as I fell but caught my full weight easily.
I was just as surprised as he was and my mask shattered. Bright red blush covered my cheeks and my heart sped up a little bit. I prayed that he couldn't hear it and that he couldn't see my face. It soon became apparent that somehow my prayers had been answered and he placed me on my feet and turned away. We stood there for a moment, an awkward silence stretching between us. Then he cleared his throat and started walking away again. Summer nudged me forward and I had no choice but to follow or get pushed into Leo again. Glancing back at them I gave them one of my coldest glares that said we would have words later. Winter gave a coughing bark that I took for a laugh and Summer gave me a sheepish look.
Leo stopped a few feet away and called back. Blinking I hadn't realized that I had stopped walking. With a shake of my head I jogged up to him, my tigers following beside me. When we had caught up with him he took off again, clearly seeming to not waste any daylight. At first it seemed like he was trying to avoid me but then he dropped back. I glanced over at him and there was a really conflicted look on his face.
We kept walking for the longest time and only when the sun started to set did Leo take off. He ran forward a few feet and motioned for me to come closer. Despite the amount of time that had passed I was still skeptical of some or the things he showed me. So naturally I was skeptical again as I came forward. Leo took my hand as once I was close enough and pulled me the rest of the way forward.
I gasped when I saw what it was he was showing me. It was a city but it wasn't like normal cities. It was more of a Steampunk style city with trees being made into houses and houses made to look like trees. People walked around in pairs and fours with animals following them. If it was a pair usually there was only one animal and in the fours usually only two animals. Then I noticed something else; the people who didn't have animals seemed to have similar qualities to Leo.
They all had dark hair, blue eyes and tan skin. It seemed like they were focused entirely on the person closest to them, almost like some kind of guardian angel or something. The next thing that made them stand out from the crowd was that one of them got asked to do something by the person he was focused on and he turned with a nod and leaped into the air. As I watch with wide eyes large white wings unfurled from his back and he took flight. Leo looked up in surprise as the guy came toward them.
"I guess I should have told you about that." He mumbled pointing at the flying man.
"Told me about what" I questioned, turning to him.
"That there are others who seem to look quite a bit like me and the fact that all of them, me included, have wings?" he said cringing slightly.
"Yeah, that would have been good to know ahead of time Leo." I said turning back to the city.
"Do you want to go down? To the city I mean." Leo explained seeing the confusion flash across my face.
"Sure why not. But you have to tell me anything else you think it would be good for me to know as we walk. I don't really want to be surprised by anything else to day."
As we walked toward the city Leo told me everything. It was surprising to find out that all of the people who looked like Leo were actually angels that had come to earth to protect the truly special people and to search for the person who could save the world from some unspeakable danger. His story went on to say that the savior would be able to control all of the known and unknown elements as well as having two tigers and a bird for animal companions.
The story went on for about two hours and by that time we had entered the city and were headed toward Leo's house. I listened but got more and more skeptical as he went on. It all seemed too much like a fantasy to be real. By the time I realized it we had already situated ourselves in the living room of Leo's house. I looked around, surprised by the spaciousness of the room. He noticed my distraction and cleared his throat.
"Do you like the size?" he asked.
"It's a lot bigger than I'm used to, that's for sure." I replied standing up and walking around the room.
"Well, I do like to fly inside the house and the only place for it is right here. The living room also doubles as a training room, for when you discover your powers." Leo explained gently.
"Wait… What?" I asked once I realized what he had said.
"Your powers. Once you discover them this is where you will train to develop them. I'll be your teacher and you will stay here in this house until you are able to fully use your powers." was his response.
"I really don't understand what you mean by that so for now I'm going to ignore it." I said flatly giving him a bored look as I walked around the room.
He sighed and sat back down. Almost immediately an actually house cat was in his lap. It was a large tabby cat with a white under belly and green eyes. He looked a lot like Summer, minus the fact that he was much smaller and there was no black on him anywhere. Leo rubbed his ears while he flipped absently though a book he summoned from the library. Shaking my head I turned away and looked up at the doors on either side of the room.
There was a small spiral staircase with little outlets that allowed for one to step off onto a floor and get to the rooms. I wondered if all of them were bedroom and if so which one was mine. The thought pulled at my mind but I was determined not to ask about it yet. I really, really wanted to know but Leo was happily playing with his cat and it didn't seem like a good idea to bug him now.
Winter came up and nudged my hip with her big head. She gave me a look that said 'I'm hungry. Feed me.' With a small smile I took off in search of the kitchen. Summer and Winter followed behind me, both licking their lips in anticipation. It took me a good ten minutes to fin the kitchen.
God! This house is huge! It's much bigger than it looks from the outside, that's for sure. I thought rummaging around in the fridge for something I could feed my hungry cats.
Finally I came up with a platter of raw meat of some kind. The green and blue eyes lit up as I pulled it out. Feeling very disgusted I uncovered the platter and set it down for them. My feline friends tucked in once I had pulled away. For once I was glad to hide behind my mask. Right as I was about to close the door the hawk I had seen this morning landed on the top.
"What do you want this time?" I asked.
It cocked its head and pointed at the fridge with a wing. I stared at it for a moment before I realized that it wanted food. Totally unsure of what it wanted I just started digging again. This time I came up with a container of snake meat.
I pulled it out and showed it to the bird. Its eyes flashed and its beak clicked in approval. Summoning my mask to hide my disgust I opened the container and placed it on the counter. The hawk waited until I got myself something to eat before digging in to its meal. Once I had situated myself the hawk started eating happily. We were all so focused on our meal that we didn't notice that Leo had walked in until he said something.
"It looks like you found everything in the kitchen OK." He said opening the fridge door for himself.
"*Cough! Cough!* Yeah, I did." I choked.
"That's a good thing. You do know you will be staying here until you fully develop your powers and learn to control them right?" Leo asked turning to one of the cabinets and pulling out a bag of cat food.
"OK then." I droned. Then I realized what he said and looked up.
"You keep talking about these powers. What are they?"
He glanced back over his shoulder and sighed. Turning around he explained everything. In this place powers were special abilities that the humans had. A power could be anything from controlling and element to summoning grandiose illusions. Many people had more than one power but a select few had two powers. He elaborated on his story from earlier about the savior he and his comrades were searching for.
This person could control every single element with minimal effort. They would also be powerful enough to bend Time and Space as well as summoning the dead. The power afforded to them would somehow end up saving the universe and would allow all of the Earthbound Angels to return home. At my look Leo explained who the Earthbound Angels were.
"They were a select group of free angels, meaning they had no obligation to a god or deity, who had been tricked into going to Earth to look for something. Once there the one who told them to go sealed the way to the Celestial Kingdom from them. They became forever trapped with the mortals around them. At first, for some, life with the mortals wasn't so bad. Then the church men got angry and said that they were demons in disguise.
They established massive huts to capture or kill the Earthbound Angels only a few managed to escape. Those who did fled here and crated the hidden oasis. By placing a special protection field around the oasis they ensured that only special people could get to them. Life in the outside world became the fantasy while the world inside the barrier became reality to them.
That changed the day one of the first Empowered stepped through the barrier. He found his way through the trees to this city. Along the way he had picked up a canine friend that followed him faithfully. The Angels were in shock; a mortal had crossed their special barrier and was now walking around in their city. After letting him wander around for an hour one of the younger Angels went out to talk to him. She stepped out of her house and walked up to him.
This time it was the mortal's turn to be surprised. The young woman standing in front of him appeared to be no more that seventeen but her eyes showed knowledge beyond her apparent years. They talked for a while and once the others seemed to be assured that he meant no harm they too revealed themselves.
As time went on more people like the original young man arrived in the oasis. All of them had certain powers that reflected their personalities. The Angels took it upon themselves to teach the Empowered how to use their powers. All was well and the two worlds, old and new, met hand in hand. Then one of the oldest Angels fell ill.
He had been on earth too long and was dying from the lack of spiritual energies. Before he passed, however, he gave his son a prophesy. 'One day an Empowered will arrive here who is unlike the others. They will have three companions and the greatest powers of all. The power they possess will allow our people to return to where we belong and save the universe from a great Evil.' Then, as he died, a vision of the Savior flashed across his eyes for all to see.
It was a young woman, her two tone hair cut in a modern Punk style. The only other details were blurred by mist. Her companions were crystal clear though; two tigers, a white one and a Bengal one, and a Golden Eagle. Then the Elder's blue eyes turned glassy and he faded away." Leo sighed as his lengthy tale came to a close.
"Wow… That's… interesting." I murmured, still wrapped up in the spell of the story.
He gave me a sad smile and suddenly I realized something; he was probably closely related to the Elder. That was probably one of the only reasons that he knew the story so well. It was either that or he just had a really good memory. He looked like he was about to say something else but a loud knock on the door distracted him.
Mumbling and apology he excused himself and went to answer that door. I sat there for a few moments pondering what Leo had told me and my own thoughts. Absently I pointed at one of the candles on the counter and flicked my finger upward. I wasn't paying any attention but if I had been I would have seen the flame jump off the candle and hover in the air above it. While still unfocused I directed my finger around in circles and other little shapes.
Leo came in with the person who had been at the door and both of them gasped in shock when they saw me. The other person seemed to be taking it the hardest. He was clearly older than Leo and his eyes were an even darker shade of blue. The other man looked at Leo then at me, his eyes getting bigger by the second. After a moment he cleared his throat. The sound jerked me out of my head and the flame sputtered and died in midair.
"It looks like you have discovered one of your powers, Amsel!" Leo smiled coming over and slapping me on the back.