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The Gifts

I fell to save your condemned knights. With my last breath I gave you immortality. Making you my Eternal Guardians, the only enemy of Cimmerii. Those soulless things living in darkness.

-The Fallen, ‘The Book of Immortals’

1410 England, Upperlands

MARDICHI - The Spark

Mardichi was the first one to notice when his fiery temper rose, his hair would begin to crackle, and hands would grow superheated.

“Whatever are you doing?” Rhyers wandered in to lounge in a chair in the chamber. Watching intently as Mardichi stared at his palm waiting.

“Tryin’ ta get it ta happen again.”


“Not sure.”

“Helpful…” Rhyers drawled. “Perhaps some more ale would help.” Rhyers nodded toward the ugly hide cask sitting on the side table.

“Mayhap.” Mardichi murmured still bouncing his palm before his face.

Rhyers frowned. “I was being sarcastic.”

“I’m aware.”

“Bah.” Rhyers expostulated. “You’re in a foul mood.”

“I’m tryin’ ta concentrate. No thanks ta ye.”

“Fine.” Rhyers tossed his hands and dropped into a chair near the ale cask. Lifting it and sniffing, he wrinkled his nose disdainfully.

“Ah-ha!” Mardichi crowed triumphantly. Turning slowly so Rhyers could glimpse the tiny floating spark glowing inches above his palm.

“What the Devil!” Rhyers stared at him.

“I know!” Mardichi grinned.

“No, you don’t!” Rhyers leapt from the chair and wrenched the coverlet off the bed to toss over Mardichi’s head since his hair was lighting at the tips with red orange fire. Burning nearly up to his collar.

“What in bloody Hell are ye doin'?” Mardichi grumbled from beneath the coverlet dangling over his head and down to his limp forearms.

“Saving your hide.” Rhyers strolled to the doorway before tossing over his shoulder. “You’re welcome.”


Mardichi wandered outside later in the day and glimpsed Rhyers’ tall frame crossing the lawns and heading into the trees.

“Are you going to make sure he’s okay?” Acharius boomed from behind him.

Mardichi turned and faced the only man nearly as large as he. “Nah. ’Es tough enough.”

“But slight.”

“Yet wiry.”

Acharius’ blonde brows drew together. “I’ll go then.”

“Fine.” Mardichi shrugged and headed back in.

Acharius wandered into the trees. Spotting Rhyers crouched down. “What are you doing, lad?”

“Can you see this?” Rhyers had his head turned sideways staring at where the tracks veered into the woods.

“The tracks?”

“No, how they move.”

“They’re not moving.” Acharius eyed him askance. “Their tracks. Quite stationary.”

“Not if you look at them right…Or I do.”

Acharius waited for him to elaborate.

He did. In time. “Their depth shows the weight and approximate height.” Rhyers gaze slid up as he saw a shadow forming over the track that was nearly six foot. Black and blurred. “As the weight disperses when the track is left you can see how fleet of foot the creature is.” The black blur before him became more slender and athletic. Becoming clearer. “The slide of the toes here,” Rhyers pointed. “Tells you how fast he’s moving.”

Acharius knelt. Trying to see what Rhyers was. “How fast is he moving?”

“Fast. Look at the distance between the tracks as he lunges.”


“Has to be.” Rhyers envisioned the shadow take a long stride then veer sideways as it put two feet against the tree, visible through the slight clumps of mud and the absence of further tracks in the dirt, to jump off sideways and clear the bush. His shoulders and head vanishing further into the trees. “He is moving quickly and agilely.”

“That’s incredible. Where did he go?”

Rhyers pointed.

“Can you follow it?”


And they did. Flawlessly. They rounded a few trunks and there was the faintest movement of the gray skinned creature in the distance. Clearly, no longer human.

Before Rhyers could react, the creature was collapsing with an arrow jutting from its chest. Rhyers turned stunned green eyes to his companion. “Did you see-” Rhyers stopped, frozen.

Acharius stood there, bow drawn with the string still quivering.

“How could you possibly have made that shot? And how did you do it so fast?”

“I find I’m incredibly fast lately.” But Acharius too stared from his bow to the fallen creature and back, in shock.

“You were never like that before…”

“No, I was not.”

“Where there’s one there will be more.” Lucien stepped next to them to join them. “They’ll come from that direction and that one.”

“Why?” Acharius lowered his bow to ask.

“Trees are denser and this area where the trees separate gives them the perfect place to lure our kind into an ambush. There will be more…Especially now that they know we’ll fall for it.” He gave Rhyers a chiding look.

“I merely followed the track.”

“There’s always more than a track.” Lucien said patiently.

“Clearly.” Acharius noted.

“A few from the sky could break the tree coverage over there.” Lucien pointed to a gap in the canopy.

“How are you seeing all of that?” Acharius queried.

“I don’t know. I’m hyper-attuned to anywhere that a predator would spot.”

“As though you are one?”

“Likely…” Sabias gave a grudging head tilt.


A floor below Mardichi’s chamber, Raese was sitting in the dark. Staring at his hairbrush. Everytime he tossed his arm out, the end would luminesce in vibrant green light as vivid as Raese’s eyes.

Deragan walked carefully to Raese’s door since he’d been locked in there for several days. Deragan lifted his fist carefully and barely tapped the wood.

“Being awful careful.” Sebastian drawled from the down the hall where he leaned against the wall watching in amusement.

“Trying to ration my strength.”

“So, you don’t bend in the hinges and knock it down trying to tap on it?” Bast mocked.

“’Tis not funny. I’m still learning how all this strength works.”

“It works well.” Bast pushed off the wall. “Better then the beasts trying to claw out of me.”

“That does look uncomfortable.” Deragan cleared his throat. Noticing the scratches crisscrossing Bast’s torso where small creatures had dug their way out of him a few days past when Bast had gotten furious with Mardichi lighting his tunic on fire.

“Yes?” Raese called from in the room.

“Can we come in?”

Bast drew near Deragan to wait with him.


They entered and found Raese staring at the end of the glowing hairbrush in confusion.

“What are you doing?” Bast blurted.

“Figuring out what this does.”

“Why are you using your brush?”

“Because it won’t come out of my hands. I have to move it through something wood, I think.”

“Interesting…” Deragan murmured.

“It seems to glow.” Bast said dryly.

“Bit more than that.” Raese began to slowly rotate the brush and it formed a wide green circle and as the circle opened so it was only outlined in swirling lights the inside of the visible half of the chamber had changed. Sunlight was bright, despite that in reality it was an overcast day, the chair was now newly upholstered and the tapestries were cleaned and bright.

“It creates an illusion of reality?” Deragan asked.

“Hardly an illusion.” Raese dropped his hand. The light dousing at the end of the brush. When the swirling circle vibrated and closed with a violent burst that half of the room remained changed.

“I change reality.”

Bast grunted and wandered across the room to drop into the chair. When it didn’t give under him, he grabbed the armrest and lifted it before slamming it down a few times before giving Deragan a shocked look. “Oh, it’s real enough.”



Alazar was toying with his new gift for swordsmithery. He was swinging the blade against Teverius’ twirling hatchets.

“You were always good but not like this!” Teverius crossed his hatchets to block the sword coming down near his face.

“I can anticipate your movements.”

“How about now?” Teverius tossed the sword from near his face and spun in a crouch. Twirling hatchets in his hand as he attempted to swipe at Alazareth several times. But each time Alazar was able to foresee the attack coming and block each blazing hatchet strike.

“You’re so fast I can hardly see them!” Alazar cried. Though somehow his sword reflexively blocked every high-speed attack.

“I know!”

“It’s impossible!” Alazar shouted. Deflecting another blow that he barely saw coming. “Cease before you take off my head!” Despite his great skill the hatchet attack was terrifying in its intensity.

Laughing, Teverius stopped. White hair falling down his back like a veil.

“How does all that not get in your face?” Alazar pointed to the hair with his sword.

“I’m moving too fast. It can’t catch up.” Alazar shook his head. “Insanity.” Just as he turned to walk away, he came face to face with their strongest fighter.

“Chavias.” Teverius grumbled in distaste. Looking away.

“Care for another match, now that you’ve terrified ol’ Alazar, here?”

“He didn’t terrify me!” Alazar defended.

“No?” Chavias eyed him. “You looked a mite afraid.” Steel gray eyes were unwavering on Alazar.

“Don’t call me afraid.” Alazar lifted his sword before his face. Clearly in challenge.

“What about you, Little Brother?” Chavias looked to Teverius. “Care to help him?”

“It won’t take two of us.” Alazar said. Though his voice lacked conviction.

Chavias gave him a derisive look. “You’ve both sparred with me afore and neither of you could best me before. You think so much has changed?”

“We’re much better now.” Teverius grinned.

“Good.” Chavias reached over his back and drew his dual curved swords. “I like a challenge. And neither of you were much of one afore.”

Growling in rage, Teverius came at him swinging both hatchets in a windmill motion. But Chavias blocked both effortlessly as he rotated his swords. Eventually catching one hatchet enough to send it flying from Teverius’ hand.

Alazar seeing the thinner man was far outmatched decided to join the fray as invited. But as he moved at Chavias side, Chavias whipped his head to the front so he could flick his eyes side to side to keep them both in view. Utilizing his swords independently he blocked every attack. Ducking when he needed, crouching, turning and moving in expert footwork.

Teverius and Alazar called to each other to coordinate attacks but their every move was countered by Chavias effortlessly.

Finally, enraged Teverius shouted profanity and belted both his hatchets as he stalked from the lawn. Passing Deragan. Who’d been watching in astonishment.

“Impossible.” He murmured. “What have we become?”

“Not fast enough to best him yet!” Teverius turned and gave a frustrated gesture toward Chavias who was now beating back Alazar in a vicious attack. “’Tis unfair since he can fight equally on both sides.”

“His hands do respond in separate attacks.”

“It’s inhuman!” Teverius snorted stomping up to the house. “He’s purely demonic.”

Deragan watched Chavias intently.

Rhyers wandered out to stand next to him. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m immensely glad he’s on our side.”

“No shit!” Rhyers shook his head.

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