Jounaven woke to pain, intolerable pain. An agony that he had never known in all his 663 years. It was a long, drawn out awakening, his mind hovering between life and death. Nothing else existed but the pain. It hurt everywhere, a fire in his ichor, an ache in his bones. He didn’t know what hurt. A better question would be what didn’t hurt. All he wanted was his suffering, his torment to end.
With a pained cry, he managed to open his eyes. They were crusted over with tears. But it could have been ichor. He couldn’t quite remember.
A moment later he came to a realization. A painful realization. He was lying flat on his back. Flat. With a blind terror he sat up, feeling along his shoulder blades and wincing. He could feel two long, ugly gashes where his wings had been. His wings. They were gone. How? How? It was too impossible to believe.
He remembered. The wraithes. They had decended on Kilissa, light and dark, good and evil. It had been a massacre, the forces colliding with shouts and cries. Jounaven had fought back to back with his best friend and true love, Ammi, his brother, Pershis, only a few paces a way.
He was racked by sobs, awful heart-breaking sobs. Tears blurred his vision and excruciating pain gripped his whole head. He didn’t know how long he cried, how long he sat there rocking back and forth. But when he finally stopped and his vision cleared, he began to wish he could unsee the carnage.
Bodies of the jinn and wraithes littered the ground. Severed wings were thrown haphazardly. Black and gold ichor covered the ground.
Staggering to his feet, he managed not to trip on any of the bodies. It wasn’t until he reached the ridge that he broke down again. At the base of a ridge was the body of a young jinn girl with silver hair and wide orange eyes. On her wrist was a friendship bracelet of long white feathers and silver cord. Dropping back down to his knees, Jounaven let out an earpiercing scream, not caring who heard. It was Ammi, the girl he loved. Ammi, his best friend in the the entire world.
Sheathing Ammi’s special gladius of ether that she carried everywhere onto his belt, Jounaven carefully undid her bracelet and wrapped it around his wrist, right beside the white and gold bracelet of his. Swallowing back a sob, he gathered her stiff, cold body into his arms and started walking. Toward Kilissia. Toward its impossibly high, impossibly beautiful glass-like walls. But even the capital didn’t escape the carnage. The ether walls were ichor stained, mostly gold but a few black streaks were here and there. Devoid of living creatures, the ether halls were silent and echoing. Jounaven tried not to think about what that meant. About who was missing from this world.
Jounaven carried her body all the way down to the lowest level, to the hatchery. He winced as its warmth hit him, but went on. He started to wish he hadn’t when he saw them. Windwalker eggs, all smashed, all obliterated. They lay in shattered pieces in the nests and in some he saw the beginning of a dragon-like figure. It made him shudder and once again question how the balance could tip so far in the darkness’ favor. The balance had always been kept equal, kept in harmony. The jinn represented the light, the wraithes the dark. And he was the last jinn standing. But there had not been enough wraithe bodies to say that the wraithes were equally decimated. They still walked and would walk some more.
In the deepest part of the hatchery were the dragon eggs, all similarly smashed. Jounaven had to force himself to keep walking. While Ammi had loved the Windwalkers, Jounaven prefered their more powerful cousins, the dragons. He had spent hours learning about the 4 factions and the distinguishing markers. Even now, his mind was seeing the colors and coming up with factions. A pale red egg. A fruitfly. A dark green egg that looked like an emerald. A butterfly. A metallic blue egg. A firefly. A black egg. A dragonfly.
At the side of the hatchery, it opened up onto a cliff, the sea of fire roiling below. Jounaven closed his eyes before tossing Ammi’s body into the sea.
“A tenebris ad lucem, ut iterum dilectus meus semper, nam et ultra, aeternum, dilectus meus,” he whispered, a single tear rolling down his cheek. It was a latin phrase, adopted by the jinn as a funeral passage. It was from an old Roman song.
From light to shadows to light again
For always, my beloved
For you and I will meet again
Forever, my beloved
The words, of course, sounded flat and hollow in his grief-filled voice. Shuddering, he turned away and continued back through the hatchery. He was almost through when he heard the high pitched squeal. The squeal of a dragon stil in its egg. He turned and went back. In a small alcove filled with nests, Jounaven discovered a whole turquoise dragon egg. He picked it up and brushed his fingers across its smooth surface. It glowed and the brand of a dragon in flight appeared to be burned into its surface. For the first time, he smiled as he watched the symbol fade.
Clutching the egg close to his chest, Jounaven set out to find the bodies of his parents and his brother, determined to give them a proper burial, too. In the end it took him three days for which he did not eat, nor drink, nor sleep. It pushed his immortality to its limits, and when he was finished with the task, he was utterly exhausted.
With the dragon egg still with him, Jounaven reached down into his core for his magic to take him beyond the borders of the Jinn Empire. He tugged and tugged and pulled and pulled but he could not access his innate magic. He clenched his teeth and tried again, yanking with all his might. The flood of power rushed up to greet him with terrifying force. It overpowered him and the world went black around him.
He woke up on his back, the dragon egg pillowed in his arms. He felt sick and weak and dazed like he was dying slowly. Rolling over, he retched, a strangely human thing for him to do. He hadn’t known it was possible for jinn to do such a wretched thing.
Wiping the ichor leaking from the corner of his mouth, Jounaven got to his feet. He was outside what the savage humans called a tavern, a disgustingly barbaric place that stank of filth and unwashed bodies. To his heightened senses, it was especially painful. In the end, the smell of food got him to go on in. Inside it was dim and smelled even worse. The humans hollered in their rudimentary language they called ruid and it very clearly lacked the elegance and grace of ecklis. It was painful to speak in.
“I would like some food and drink, please.” A bowl of stew, some hard bread, and a thing called ale was thrust in front of him.
Jounaven tried not to show suprise at the fact that humans used the same complicated currency system as the jinn. Perhaps they weren’t so dumb after all. He stalked off to some dark corner of the room, trying not to make eye contact. The food was aweful, stale and bland, but he forced it down. The ale was much better, what the humans call alchoholic in nature. For the perhaps the first time in his six hundred years, Jounaven wished he could get drunk.
“Is this seat taken?” The young man who sat across from Jounaven was fine featured and almost fancy in dress. What the humans call a noble.
“By who?” Jounaven gave him a cold hard glare. He didn’t flinch. Then again, these days, Jounaven’s eyes were more haunted than steely. “I’m Brindan.” He gave a wolfish smile and extended a hand. Jounaven didn’t return the favor.
“And I thought jinn were supposed to be nice.” At that Jounaven jerked, his knee bumping the table.
“How did you know I was jinn?” Without his wings, he had assumed everyone else would assume he was human.
“You’re eyes are an abnormal gray. Your hair is an unnatural platinum blonde. You walk with a silent grace like a predator. You carry a dragon egg.” Brindan’s eyes briefly flick to the egg and Jounaven pulled it closer, trying to hide it in his shadow.
“You are a particullarly observant human.” There was that smile again, mischevious as plain as can be.
“I am not your usual savage.” Yet another smile. “I know how your people see, white wings. To you, we are barbaric and savage. Ruthless animals. And I suppose we are. Compared to the light and refinement of your empire.” A fourth roguish grin. “May I?”
Before he could respond, Brindan reached over and picked up the dragon egg. The symbol flared and faded away. “Amazing.”
“You...you have jinn ichor.” For once Brindan looked confused. “The dragon insignia only shows up when it comes into contact with jinn ichor.”
“I bleed red,” Brindan stammers. He had gone deathly pale and his metallic blue green eyes were wide. The hood of his cloak slipped off, revealing platinum blonde hair the same shade as Jounaven’s.
“So you are half-jinn. That explains how you recognized me for what I am. Brilliant acting by the way. I almost thought you didn’t know.” Jounaven reached for his magic again and once again ran into the barrier. His stomach sank. It was as bad as he thought. His magic was basicallly untouchable and caused severe side effects when he could reach it.
“Come.” This time it came out commanding. Brindan came, following along silently like a shadow. Even with Jounaven’s heightened hearing, he kept having to glance back to see if he was still following. When they were far enough from the tavern, Jounaven raised his hand to stop.
“I don’t have a lot of experience with you half-breeds, but I hear you have strong ties to the oracle.” Brindan flinches at the word half-breed but says nothing. “Sit cross-legged and grab my hands. Reach into your core for the power. Speak the oracle. Be her vessel.”
Brindan actually does as he says, and they sit on the ground, facing each other, holding hands. Brindan closed his eyes and made a face. “Once you’ve reached her, ask for a prophecy concerning the fate of the delicate balance of jinn and wraithes.” Brindan squints, but after a moment his face goes slack.
“Jounaven?” Its a woman’s voice, a little puzzled. “Why would you ask for such a prophecy?” Jounaven was still holding hands with Brindan and through him she saw into his mind. The grief almost knocked both of them into the dirt. She sighed after a moment.
“Very well. I see seven. Septennials. Wielders of glory, descendants of jinn, heroes of Atlantis. Only they can stop the wraithes and restore balance. But they will not come anytime soon. You must wait patiently, my dear. Wait until they come.” He jerked back, suddenly angry at the thought of waiting for his revenge.
“Why?” he whined. But the connection was already broken and Brindan was slumped against a tree, his nose bleeding profusely. Brindan wiped it away with a sleeve.
“Do you know her?”
“Once she was a jinn. She chose a different path. To become something more.” Brindan nods before his whipped back up.
“Is this goodbye?′ The question suprised him.
“I guess so. Here.” Jounaven handed Brindan the dragon egg. It vibrated in his arms.
“Are you willing to wait?”
“For year, for a hundred years, for a thousand. Whatever it takes. I will avenge them.”
“I have not been completely honest with you. The wraithes have killed every jinn but me. I am the last of my kind...”
700 Years Later...