The golden hue of sunset caressed Brand’s face as he stood atop The Lighthouse. He breathed in the salty sea air and felt the ocean breezes play with his long white hair like playful kittens. His azure eyes gazed into the distant horizon, flat and featureless as the ocean covered all peaks and valleys beneath it’s waves.
It had been a long day. The magical wars between sorcerers of this world yielded a constant outpouring if injured and broken entities. Magical creatures whose minds and bodies had been twisted and broken as they were forced to serve the perverse whims of whatever wizard, sorcerer, or undead warlock happened to encounter them.
Brand’s jaw tightened. The Lighthouse was a sanctuary for any and all entities who sought healing or safety from the Magic Wars. Creatures would come to the front gates in a constant stream, often trailing blood, or screaming with madness or blood-lust as their souls writhed in pain within themselves.
Brand felt every stroke, every cry. He was a Healer. He looked down at his hands as they rested on the stone ledge. Those hands had just set the shattered remnants of a unicorn’s foreleg, healed a cursed and dying dire wolf, and laid to rest an undead creature that has once been a king’s daughter. The sorcerer that had been rebuffed by the girl had slain her and brought back her spirit to torture and terrorize the kingdom.
Brand’s hands became fists and slipped down beneath his white, shapeless Healer’s robes. He was filled with helpless anger as he recalled her screams of anger, then terror as he had unwoven the spell that held her spirit tethered to this plane of existence. Her pleading in an otherworldly voice would haunt him for the rest of his life. His only solace was the look of relief and peace that had crossed over her skeletal countenance as he released her soul.
The last purple rays of sunset glinted off a single tear as it slowly made its way down his smooth cheek.
A hand rested on his shoulder and he started slightly. Kyn, one of his many assistants, smiled wearily and handed Brand a warm mug of Cjeyan tea. It was known for its healing and restorative properties.
Brand accepted the drink with a weak smile and nodded for Kyn to continue. Many assistants would need extra rest this night, as the workload had been more difficult and intensive than Brand had seen in recent memory.
He sighed as the winds atop the tower cut coldly into his cloak and the sun finally sank below the distant ocean horizon.
The Lighthouse was essentially an enormous castle set high atop an outcropping overlooking the ocean. One tower, the closest to the blue green waters of the Fenalen Sea, was much taller than the rest and seemed to stand like a lighthouse atop the corner of the outermost castle wall.
Brand would often make the arduous climb up the many stairs as a sort of therapy of his own. Especially after a long say of literally giving a part of his life for his patients. As a healer, it was his very life essence he poured in to these broken and desperate creatures. Somehow, coming up to the top of the tallest tower and looking out across the ocean always seemed to grant for Brand a sort of sanctuary of his own. As if the sea itself were offering up a small measure of its immense power to fill a void within Brand himself.
The sky was clear that night. The stars, having no longer the need to compete with the brilliant sun, twinkled and shown in almost childish delight at having once more been freed from the tyranny of the sun.
“If only our world could be freed from the tyranny of the unchecked magic of the reckless and dangerous sorcerers.” Brand thought to himself. His face hardened in anger. Anger at the creatures of this earth that walk among others like gods. Their magic a toy they cast about with abandon, careless of the damage and death they leave in their wake.
“There is so much good they could be doing! This world doesn’t have to be ripped apart by dangerous children with the power to reshape lives on a whim!” He thought.
“Thinking about changing the world again?” A deep growling voice cut across the ocean winds and Brand gave a wry smile. He turned to see Sayen walking up to him - looking for all the world like a cross between a bear, wolf, and not enough human. Sayen was one of Brand’s former patients. He was a changeling from the forests of Theyaren. His race of ferrin were a favorite resource for magical experimentation and slavery. They had acquired a reputation for being bloodthirsty killers, when healers like Brand knew the real truth. Ferrin were a gentle, intelligent race that sought only peace and learning. Their capacity to rip someone apart with their bare hands - or rather claws - was only a remnant of their past. Until of course some ruthless sorcerer twisted them under their magicks to create unstoppable killing machines.
Sayen had come to The Lighthouse in a cage with magically spelled strength to prevent the ferrin from killing everyone around him in seconds. He also had been twice as tall - almost 12 feet - and had eyes that had glowed green with evil sorcery. It had taken Brand almost a month of concentrated effort to unravel the complex spells, conditioning, and abuse that had converted a gentle academic into a rampaging creature of death and destruction.
Sayen was one of Brand’s proudest accomplishments. Sayen had proved to Brand that the creatures of the Badlands - the area surrounding much of The Lighthouse and home for some of the most terrifying creatures in the entire world - could in fact be brought back from their abuse and magical transformations. Sayen often joked that he should rename himself Hope - since that was the gift the ferrin had given Brand that first exhausting and terror filled night when Sayen had finally broken free from the controlling spell. It had nearly killed Brand, but he knew in his heart that it had been worth it.
Sayen was still a daunting creature. Maybe only 6 feet tall now, he was all fur and muscle and teeth in a vaguely human form with gentle eyes and a quick wit. He was often called upon to help with some of the more ... intractable creatures that found themselves at The Lighthouse doorstep.
“I’ve already changed the world. I helped you didn’t I?” Brand almost shouted over the wind. Sayen gave a very toothy smile and patted Brand gently on the back. Carefully avoiding ripping any cloth ... or flesh with his long silver claws.
A light flashed in the sky.
Followed by a concussive blast of air and sound that threw both Brand and Sayen to the stony floor of the tower roof.
“What?” Sayen growed as he quickly helped Brand to his feet.
They looked to the sky for the source of the explosion. The sky was inky black, with twinkling starlight playing out across the heavens like a blanket of diamonds. However two diamond were now moving across the sky with incredible speeds. One was bright orange and left a fiery trail of plasma behind it that seemed to rip into the air as it crackled and exploded. The other was a sickly dark purple that gave off a glow that seemed to suck in the light around it. Brand could feel the wrongness of that glow. It was a glow of death. Of destruction. Of sorcery.
“Get back downstairs and secure The Lighthouse!” Brand shouted, and Sayen nodded wordlessly and tore off back to the door that capped the tower. Large portions of rock ripped from the surface of the flooring as Sayen’s powerful claws dug into them to attain a speed that Brand could only stare back at with a degree of envy.
The wrongness gnawed at him. This was not just some skirmish, or magical eddy. The orange ball of light slammed over and over into the purple sphere. Each contact gave off a concussive blast of light and sound that threatened to topple Brand once again, but he gripped the ledge of the tower tightly and looked upwards at the deadly battle that was unfolding above him.
The dark purple sphere emitted sickly sinuous lightning that engulfed the orange ball. The sound of the impact threatened to deafen Brand and he held his hands over his ears tightly. The orange ball retaliated with its own barrage of energy that ripped through the air and made Brand convulse as he felt the magicks subverting the very laws of nature to try to rip apart the orb’s enemy.
“Please.” he thought to himself. “Please don’t come near The Lighthouse. Take your battle to the ocean” he almost pleaded in his thoughts. He stared in horror as the twin orbs expended greater and greater energies in their chaotic battle. He had never in his life encountered entities with the power that these two seemed to possess. The battle escalated.
The magicks the two sorcerers were drawing on were taking a toll on each. The orange ball was now laced with snakes of purple darkness that played across its surface like reptilian predators. The purple ball was coming into and out of existence thousands of times a second - as if dying over and over again only to re-emerge unscathed before the next instant of death. The air smelled of electricity, magic, and death. Brand could not contain himself. He vomited the tea and what remained of the little food he had consumed that day. His skin was on fire. His eyes glowed with the effort of holding back from trying to Heal the terrible creatures above him. He knew that if he even made his presence known he would be killed instantly.
Then, it was all over. The purple orb suddenly doubled, then tripled in size and formed a wedge. It slammed into the orange orb which disintegrated in a titanic explosion. Brand fell once again to the floor and blood began to flow from his eyes and ears.
He felt more than saw the purple orb blast away into the distance. The wrongness faded. But something else threatened to overwhelm his senses.
Pain. Fear. Panic.
Brand pulled himself up enough to see something falling from the heavens. It could have been a remnant of the orange orb’s shell. It tumbled over and over and glowed slightly as it ripped through the sky. It was coming directly toward The Lighthouse!
Something black, shiny, and moving at incredible speed passed only a few feet above Brand before it was gone. Brand felt the tower shake beneath him slightly as he felt the remant impact on the ground. Somewhere. Somewhere nearby!
Brand stopped. Someone had been in that - that shard. Someone who was now most likely dead from the incredible impact he had felt.
Wiping his face, he ignored the blood he now saw on his once white robes and he dashed down the long stairway. Someone was hurt. Badly. And his training took over.
As he hit the bottom floor running, his assistants turn to him in alarm. They had heard and felt the battle and knew that something was very, very wrong. They were trained however to deal with things like this. After all, The Lighthouse was a magnet for ill creatures and terrible magicks. And those magicks were all the more terrible after sunset.
From some corridor, Sayen emerged. His eyes were wild and glowed slightly. He was also much larger than Brand had last seen him. However it was not evil that filled the ferrin now. It was concern for Brand, and the remnants of the battle that had caused the entire Lighthouse to come awake and on alert.
“Come, master Brand!” Sayen roared and lifted the Healer on to his furry back. Sayen went to all fours and tore down the corridor to the main entrance. Assistants scurried to and fro like ants in an anthill but the ferrin managed to not crash into any of them, and they knew better than to try to stop a determined ferrin from it’s destination.
“Open the gates!” Sayen roared, and his words echoed like a trumpet across the castle.
Brand held on desperately to Sayen’s long fur. He knew that the ferrin would not purposely harm him. But he was not about to let himself get smashed into a wall or gored as the ferrin tore down the hallway - leaving larger and larger chunks of stone behind him.
The gates flew open and Brand felt the night air hit him like a cold waterfall. Sayen was moving with unearthly speed.
“Find the shard! Find where it landed!” Brand shouted. He didn’t know if Sayen even could hear him, but he had to try.
Sayen increased his stride, now that they were free of the castle walls and Brand knew if he released his deathgrip on the ferrin’s fur right then he would have perished. Within moments they followed the dirt path that led from the Lighthouse entrance to the beach. The sky was dark, and the ground an inky black, but Brand knew Sayen had vision that could see in almost total darkness.
Brand whispered a spell and a small ball of light appeared near his head. Sayen veered at first - thinking the light a possible attack from a sorcerer, but then realized it was from Brand. With the meager light they quickly found the impact point.
It would not have been difficult to find - even in pitch darkness. The shard had hit the ground at a very shallow angle and had dug a tremendous trench into the soft sand of the beach. The gouge rand roughly parallel to the ocean waves, and already much of it was filled with water.
A moment later they reached the shard’s resting place. Whatever protection the shard had given to it’s occupant, that protection had ended on impact. There were shiny black shell-like shards everywhere, as if an enormous black glass ornament had been dropped from a very high place.
“That’s probably not far from the truth” Brand thought to himself.
Panting with effort, Sayen skidded to a stop at the end of the trench and Brand slid weakly off his back. His hands were throbbing in pain, but that pain was only a tiny sliver compared to the waves of pain and suffering that were buffeting Brand’s senses like a nova of hurt.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Brand lept into the gouged earth and his small ball of light followed him. He gasped. The body that lie before him looked more like a bloody, broken ragdoll. Arms and legs were twisted and bent in directions they were never intended. The body’s torso was twisted and burned, and Brand realized that some of the injuries must have been from the titanic struggle that had played out in the night sky.
The pain was almost too much for Brand to bear. His discipline kicked in and he put up his shields. Something he almost never did. He NEEDED to feel his patient’s pain. That was how he could decide how best to treat them. But this. This was something else. Something new.
Sayen jumped down in the trench behind him and gasped as well.
“Brand. Do you know who this is?” His eyes were wild and glowed bright red. Brand turned to Sayen in alarm.
“It’s - it’s a sorceress.” Brand croaked. His own throat was dry and he had to force the words out. He took a step forward. “We have to help her. That’s why we are here.” He said to Sayen. He spoke it out loud not only for Sayen’s benefit but for his own as well.
Sayen raised a powerful claw. “No, it’s not just a sorceress, master Brand. It’s HER.”
“What? Her? What do you-” And suddenly Sayen brought his claw down in a slash that would have easily cut the helpless form in half. But instead, Brand was there. His hand outstretched, palm forward. A single claw had pierced his palm and blood was flowing freely down his arm.
“Sayen. It doesn’t matter who she is. WE ARE HEALERS.” Brand’s voice cut through the cold, salty air. Sayen stared at his own claw, that now pierced his dear friend. The Healer that had brought Sayen back from the abyss. He visibly shrank and dropped his head.
“But Brand. This sorceress. She’s the Raven.”
Brand fell to his knees.