Chapter 26: Beyond The Black
Ra’venna sits by Helios’s bedside, waiting for him to awaken. She twirls her sai in her hand, dragging the sharp tip along her finger. Helios has been unconscious for hours. He’s barely stirred let alone awaken. The only contact she has ever had with a shifter species is Zidtyx. He was a Kitsune, but there are vast differences between Kitsunes and Dragons. Helios’s fight had to take a lot out of him. She just hopes he’ll be conscious and fully recovered by the time they reach Kinestorm.
Her mind wanders back to the Orc. Orcs haven’t been seen in the above world in millenniums. Once the age of peace was ushered in, they vanished. Of course with Quvania’s recent conquests and the Children of Tevata’s rebellion, there is enough chaos to reawaken them. But one so big. That was no ordinary Orc. They are never that large or that powerful. The magical cannons had no affect. They didn’t even slow it down. Even with Helios in his Dragon form it took a considerable amount of power and fight to destroy it.
Perhaps this is proof that what she has felt is real. If there is an Orc this close to Kinestorm she shudders to think what they will find when they get there. If the city has been overrun with Orcs the handful of guards they have won’t last the landing.
She sighs and leans back. Her eyes fall onto Helios’s peaceful sleeping form and her worries slip away. She taps into their bond, trying to read his emotions. The only good thing of unconsciousness is the blankness that comes with it. There’s a lack of emotion and conflict. It is true peace. Ra’venna slips into the bond, drawing on that peace.
Helios stirs and Ra’venna feels a flicker of emotion flare through their bond. He groans and his head rolls to the side. Ra’venna sits up. Helios opens his eyes. He blinks the sleep from his eyes and looks to the chair beside his bed. Ra’venna stares down at him.
“Are you alright?” She questions. She keeps her voice low as to not disturb him. He nods. His mouth dry. He sits up, wincing. His body is sore from the beating he took during the fight and the lack of magic coursing through him. “Yes, you look spectacular.” Ra’venna deadpans. Helios glares at her.
“It has been a long day.” He remarks. He sighs and runs a hand through his hair.
“Yes, I suppose it had.” She trails off. Her lips dipping into a frown. Helios catches her tone.
“You are worried about what lies in Kinestorm.” He states, not asks. She nods. How can she not.
“An Orc this size, close to Kinestorm. Whatever has happened to Kinestorm it is not good.” She replies. Helios doesn’t say anything. He has already suspected as much. There is no reason for contact to has faltered with Kinestorm and the messengers his parents sent out have not returned.
“I know.” He agrees softly. “The question is: what has brought this?” Ra’venna sighs.
“I honestly don’t know.” She says. Helios reaches over and takes her hand. The familiar heat soothes the both of them.
“I wish I had never come back.” Helios utters suddenly. Ra’venna’s eyes snap up from their intertwined hands to his face. He stares directly ahead at the wall. Ra’venna understands how he feels. Since he has come back he has had to deal with the things he has tried hard to forget. It is the same reason that Ra’venna avoids returning to her former home in Etrien if possible. The fact that K’marie has designated it their meeting spot does not help. Ra’venna is only able to make it through by pretending that the girl that lived there was another person, another part of herself long dead.
“You did what you had too. It will not be in vain.” She tells him. He turns to face her, his orange gaze pouring into her.
“Are you sure?” Ra’venna is silent for a moment, before shaking her head.
“No, I am not sure, but that does not mean it isn’t true. We do not know the endings. We do not know how a war or conflict will end and we do not know how our lives will end. All we know is that an end will come. For now that is all we can hope for, the end.” Helios gives the smallest of smiles and squeezes her hand.
“Perhaps that is all we are, endings.” Helios mumbles. Ra’venna shrugs.
“Who knows? Perhaps we are beginnings or endings or neither. I assume it is a question that many will search for the answer to and none will find.”
“Philosophy is not necessarily a strength of mine.” Helios jokes. Ra’venna laughs.
“Nor is it mine.” She tucks a fallen wave behind her ear. “You make a rather fierce-some Dragon.” She observes. Helios smirks, pride filling his face.
“I am quite magnificent, aren’t I?” She rolls her eyes.
“Dragons and their egos.” Helios chuckles.
“Is that what you think of me Ra’venna?” He teases, resting his back against the wall. He brings his leg up and rests his wrist on his knee.
“If the scales fit.” She retorts. He shrugs.
Helios cranes his neck to look out the window. In the distance he can see the city of Kinestorm emerging from the clouds. The clouds are too thick for Helios to see if anything’s wrong, but he does notice there are no flying ships surrounding Kinestorm. The only one in the vicinity of the city is theirs.
“We’re almost there.” He states. Ra’venna rises from the chair and walks to the window, glancing out.
“We should go above deck. We do not know what will be waiting for us when we arrive.” She says. Helios nods his agreement. He snatches his sheathed katana from the beside table and follows Ra’venna above deck.
Ra’venna and Helios stand on the side of the ship their arms resting on the rail. Ra’venna keeps her hand clasped beneath her chin. The city becomes more visible every second. Ra’venna can see a tower standing tall in the distance. The Emperor and Empress were right to worry. Ra’venna reaches beneath her cloak and draws her sais.
“This is going to end in a fight.” She states. Helios offers no argument. His grip on the katana tightens.
He glances over his shoulder at the handful of guards. Two of them were injured in the Orc’s attack. It is nothing life threatening, but there are limping and it will slow them down. If the city is overrun with Orcs they do not stand much of a chance and Helios doesn’t have enough magic to shift into his Dragon form again. Ra’venna’s destructive power will provide an advantage, but a slim one.
Helios pushes himself off the rail and walks towards the head of the boat. He ignores Ra’venna’s questioning gaze. “Captain,” he calls. The Captain turns his head and bows deeply. Helios acknowledges him with a nod.
“Your Imperial Highness, what can I do for you?” He questions.
“Have the ship ready to leave at a moment’s notice. We do not know what will be waiting for us.” He orders. The Captain nods and bows. Helios returns to Ra’venna’s side.
The ship slows as they approach Kinestorm. There is no movement. Ra’venna cannot see one sign of life. The city is completely deserted. There is no sound except for the howling wind, that sets a chilling atmosphere. Ra’venna pulls her cloak hood further over her head.
“Where is everyone?” She hears Helios mumble from beside her.
“Probably dead.” She answers.
“There’s no bodies.” Helios is right. They have a clear view of the city now and there are no bodies. All the buildings are standing tall. None are crushed or damaged in any way, at least not what they can see. It is as if everyone merely deserted the flying city, taking nothing with them. Ra’venna spots a street market. The stands are untouched. The vegetables, fruits, and fabrics are laid out, as if someone had just left it there and walked away. It sends a chill up Ra’venna’s back. Creatures simply do not disappear.
“I don’t like this.” She states. Helios frowns. He has to agree. This isn’t good. Something is wrong, very wrong.
“Watch your back.” He tells her.
“You too.” She replies.
The Captain pulls the ship into the landing dock and one of the crew members ties it to the post. Helios draws his katana. Ra’venna readies her sais. The stairs are lowered. The guards surround Helios and Ra’venna on all sides, their weapons drawn. Helios makes his way down the stairs, scanning the surrounding areas for any sign of a threat. Ra’venna leaps down from the boat, landing beside Helios. Her sais are clutched tightly in her hands.
“How does a city of people just disappear?” Helios questions. He kicks in the door of a small house. Ra’venna follows him inside. The house it untouched. Sitting on the table is dinner. From the smell radiating it has been sitting there for at least two weeks. There are no signs of struggle. The chairs have been neatly pushed under the table.
“This doesn’t make any sense.” She mumbles. Helios nods his agreement, unable to find the words. They search the rest of the house and find no signs of life. There aren’t even bugs. It is as if all the life in the city has been vanquished. What could possibly have the power to do this?
They exit the house and walk through the streets. Lying in the middle of the street is a ball, a child’s toy. Only a few feet in front of it is a cart filled with baskets of vegetables. If they were fresh on their arrival they are now rotting. There is no horse attached to the cart, but the bridle that once bound the horse is still attached.
“There’s no sign of the messengers.” Helios states. Ra’venna narrows her gaze. There’s no sign of anyone. “Whatever happened to these people happened about two weeks ago. My parents sent out messengers as late as three days ago. What happened to them?” He has a point. If there are no other corpses. There should at least be the bodies of the messengers.
Ra’venna can feel it and she wonders if Helios can too. There’s a darkness coating the city. It is responsible for whatever has happened. This isn’t the element of the darkness, or even the darkness of her Nether, no, this is far worse. It is an ancient misery, an ancient evil. It’s primordial. The lingering magic leaves a powerful stench. It would make normal creatures sick, but Ra’venna is born of darkness and destruction she can tolerate it, but it makes even her queasy.
She thinks back to K’marie’s warning of the Storm Children. The Great Arcturus Storm has not come, everyone would know if it did. This is not what the Storm Children leave behind anyway. They slaughter and slaughter leaving behind scores of bodies and a trail of destruction. This is not the Storm Children. This is another type of monster, one that even Ra’venna has a hard time fathoming.
“Whatever did this is no ordinary creature.” She states.
“But what is it?” Helios counters. Ra’venna can only shrug. She has no answer. She has traveled many places and heard many tales, legends and myths of great monsters and the heroes that overcame them, but she has never heard of such a creature that does this. “And where is it?” He adds, in a quieter voice.
A choked scream fills the air. Ra’venna and Helios whirl around. They turn around in time to see a guard being devoured by an Orc. This Orc destroys the guard in the same way Ra’venna’s power destroys creatures. She is shocked. Orcs do not usually have this kind of power. They are creatures of chaos that radiate darkness, but they don’t have the power to devour. This is a new breed of Orc, a far more dangerous breed.
The Orc has a creature-noid appearance with reptilian traits. It is several feet taller than her. Slim, curved horns extend from the front of its head to the back. It has a tail-like appendage extending from the back of its head and a secondary pair of eyes on its chest. Its body is composed of a myriad of long, scaled tendrils.
The Orc’s body unravels and it slithers across the floor. It reforms behind a guard and plunges it’s clawed hand into her chest. The guard screams as the Orc’s darkness consumes completely, leaving not even ash behind.
Ra’venna hurls her sai at the Orc. It lands in the side of the repulsive thing’s neck. The Orc’s head tilts slightly to the side, but that is the only reaction. Ra’venna watches in horror as the weapon is devoured. The Orc opens it’s mouth and lets out a gruesome roar. Several other of the same type of Orcs emerges from the alleyways.
“Helios run!” She screams. He has his katana clenched in his hands, ready to fight. “No, Helios, run!” She insists. He shakes his head.
“I’m not abandoning you.” He protests. Ra’venna growls.
“This isn’t an option. You will be dead if you stay. Go. Leave this to me.” She can see Helios hesitates and glares at him. Reluctantly, he takes off in the direction of the ship.
The Orcs devour the last of the guards. They turn their sights on Ra’venna. She tosses her last sai to the ground and opens her hands. She did not send Helios away solely to protect him. She needs to unleash her power and its deadly fury. She does not want Helios to witness this horror. She reaches deep inside to her soul and pulls at the coldness, at the darkness that is integrated in it. The coldness spreads outwards, over her chest, and down her arms to her hands. Purple, smoke like energy emerges from her hands. It coils itself around her arms and body, till it is smoking off of her.
The Orcs take a step back, confused and intimidated by her power. The first Orc to break the trance unravels his body and charges at her. It reforms itself only feet from her. Ra’venna raises her hand and blasts the vile thing. The Nether consumes the Orc, a pained roar erupts from its mouth. A devious smile spreads across her face.
She thrusts out her arms. The Nether pours off of her. It winds and slithers its way over the floor and devours the Orcs. The Nether swallows them up, their screams filling the air. Ra’venna relishes in their pain, in their suffering. Her body is ice cold, her face is tinted blue, and her purple eyes are glowing. The Orcs vanish into nothingness. The strength of her Nether leaves not even ash behind.
The power vanishes. Ra’venna’s veins heat back up and the color returns to her face. Exhaustion sets in. She sways and stumbles, but manages to catch herself before she can fall. Ra’venna pushes the tiredness back and focuses on making it to the ship. She has to know if Helios is okay.
She staggers her way to the ship, her vision fading in and out. As she approaches the ship. She faintly hears her name being called out. The voice sound distorted as if she is submerged in water. Ra’venna’s vision falls dark and she topples forward. The last thing she feels are two heated arms being wrapped around her.