1 Month, 12 Days, 9 Hours
The dryads, tree nymphs, were numerous in this forest utopia. And someone had slaughtered them. I stood in the wilds of the Amazons, somewhere in Brazil’s borders. I had made my way over from Peru. The rain forest around me moved in patterns. Water plunked down through the tree canopy to the forest floor. Predators silently tracked their ignorant prey. Everything breathed with life except for the dead body I stood over.
Her usually emerald-green form had been turned into a desiccated olive husk. This one died weeks ago, like the others. An ancient Elysian ritual had killed her. One I hadn’t seen since before the Transference. The ritual should have been lost with Queen Echidna’s death. Yet here were dryads murdered by the thousands with the ritual.
Was the killer even still in the region? This trail grew colder every day. I heard a rustle through the trees. I stood still, alert. The predators knew to keep away. This far from civilization I could stay in my true form. I was left with gigantic trees, spectacular plants, and a silly little blue frog which might have killed me if I had been human. I heard another rustle, too close to the first one. It went against the sounds of the forest.
I felt for the heat signature. My thermal sense flowed out from my skin. It drifted over the trees, found every living creature, and painted a picture of the forest. There high above me and a few feet to the right sat a large body. I knew that signature.
He dropped down to the forest floor where the sun barely reached. His stark white wings dragged at the air behind him. Humans would mistake him for an angel, not surprising as he inspired the stories of such beings. His snowy chest and broad shoulders glimmered bare. Brown pants hung loosely around his legs and wrapped tight around his abs. At least he had the sense to wear this instead of his usual pure white. I scowled at the intrusion.
“Pegasus.” I looked back down at the decayed body but kept him in my peripheral.
“Pérette,” he replied with his soft tenor’s voice, quiet but unyielding. His wings spread out. He raised his hand to his chest and lowered his head in greeting. Long white hair fell over his shoulder. Unsurprisingly, he looked the same as last time.
“How did you find me?” I asked.
“The winds told me you would be here,” he said. His powers used the wind, but they weren’t a true wind element. No more than my flames were actual fire.
“And why are you here looking for me?” I let some bite flow into my words.
“War is coming.”
“Please, the clans always go at each other’s throats. It’s posturing.” I did not have time for his naivety.
“It’s serious this time. It will be a global war. The humans will get caught in the middle, and this world will die.” His wings contracted. My head snapped up and eyes narrowed.
“How are you so sure, Pegs?” I tipped my head to the side.
“I told you, don’t call me that. Your predecessor never would have disrespected me with that name.” His white hair floated in the air as his head whipped back and forth with each shake.
“Deal with it. Get back to the question.”
“Major battles have broken out in Perm, Barcelona, and Osaka. They are battles of different clans, different races, yet the same patterns.” He finally stood still. Heat rolled through my veins. Why should I care for the clans in Europe? The clans in Russia and Japan could sink right with them.
“Sounds to me like I’m in the right hemisphere.” I held back the snap. I couldn’t let his concerns whittle into my brain.
“Don’t pull that sardonic foolishness with me. I know you care. I know exactly how much you care.” Pegs walked closer to me. His blue eyes sparkled with a challenge. I hated he had the history with me to know these things.
“Fine. I care about whether war breaks out. I simply don’t think it is happening.” What a waste of my time. I turned to the dead body, the real issue at hand.
“Then how do you explain this massacre of dryads? And using the Echidna ritual no less? Open your eyes, Pérette. What are the odds?”
If I was honest, zero. There was some mathematical breakdown to find the true odds. But when you deal with powerful beings, death rituals that imbued more power always pointed to something worse. Worse was war.
“You’re right.” I heaved out a deep breath. The heat in my veins rolled to my gut. “Where do you plan to go next?”
“It depends on where you go.” Pegs stilled, became more unmoving than the new silence around us.
“North. I’ll go to New York,” I said.
“Still avoiding Europe?” He titled his head. I could have burned his flesh off for bringing up Europe, again.
“Yes.” I glared at him.
I had been re-born in France. I hadn’t seen its dirt or trees or skies in centuries. Whatever twinge of loss I felt for my birth land was overruled by the sorrow and anger that kept me away.
“I wonder whether your descendant will share the same prejudices.” His careless musings pulled me from my memories.
“You know he won’t.”
“It’s been too long since there was a male Phoenix.” I turned from him. My gold wings folded in along to my back, my gilded skin shimmering in the light with the movement.
“Kyiv. I’ll be in Kyiv. In case you need to contact me,” he said. I jumped from limb to limb until I was able to navigate the sky. I headed north.