artwork by Devon Gibbs

PREVIEW

PROLOGUE

            A lone figure strode between tall residential buildings. The myriad colors and relatively open space between the massive spires reflected the wealth of those living in that neighborhood. Despite the late hour, there was still enough light for the man walking to find his way, owing to the unnatural lighting within the city. Aquaterra, as its inhabitants knew the city, was a city situated within an enormous dome, hidden so far beneath the ocean that the sun’s light couldn’t possibly reach it. Nestled upon a plateau in a vast ocean canyon, the people of Aquaterra were cut off from the rest of the world, the fish being their only companions. Even they avoided the city due to its unnatural light. For the sectors within the dome were lit from within, shining a light that would imitate the sun during the day, and moonlight in the evening.

It was a quiet walk home for Elegan Pullmen, Councilor in the government of Aquaterra. The silence did not surprise Elegan as he was heading home much later than usual. He was a tall man, around forty-two standard years old, with long brown hair that he kept tucked back in a ponytail. He was often seen wearing a kindly smile upon his face, though his eyes held an old pain that he had not shared with anyone for a number of years.

On this night the Council of Aquaterra had been meeting to discuss evidence of underground tunnels in the Colony region of the city. This worried Elegan, for he knew that at one time a small population of half Rora survivors had occupied those tunnels. They would suffer greatly if the government discovered them.

Yet, while he worried over the consequences of such a meeting, Elegan worried more about himself, and his own connection to those tunnels. His family had once owned a Villa with an entrance to those tunnels. Though the home had long since been occupied by another owner and the doorway hidden, the possibility did exist that someone would connect him to those tunnels if the entrance were found.

So deep were his musings that he almost bumped into a woman being led away by a uniformed man with the letters D-C-T across his back, with the inscription ‘Disaster Control Team’ stitched below them. Elegan stepped aside to let them pass; sighing as they led another suspected half Rora to the prisons.

You would think that the government would have figured it out by now, he mused. If half Roras had a fraction of the power they’re supposed to have, they wouldn’t be caught so easily by the DCT.

He spent the rest of his walk home thinking about that woman, wondering what she had done to reveal herself. Whether it was a slip with some telekinetic power or an unconscious display of agility or strength; or if she even was a half Rora, and wasn’t being led away for some other crime.

He soon found himself at the massive glass doors to his apartment complex with almost no memory of the walk. Shaking his head, he opened the outer door just as he heard a noise that made his head snap around. It was the discharge sound of a Rora weapon: a Fang. He heard running footsteps and looked around to see perhaps it was the woman trying to escape, but he saw nothing.

He heard the weapon again, much closer this time, and then a woman screamed. He ran down the street desperately searching for the source of the commotion, to see if the DCT member had actually attacked that woman.

Suddenly, the lights in the neighborhood went out completely, and the street turned an ominous black. Not even the artificial moonlight was shining. Elegan felt a tingle of fear. He pulled out a small illumination sphere from his pocket as he heard footsteps again, and could then make out a man running toward him. Curious, Elegan saw the man carried what appeared to be a bundle of blankets in one arm while clutching his stomach with the other, a dark substance spilling out between his fingers.

“Help me,” he gasped. Elegan could see that the man had a deep wound in his abdomen. Blood flowed freely from the wound, while the man used all his strength to hold up the blankets.

“You’re hurt,” Elegan said, glancing around nervously. “We need to get you inside. Was it the DCT?” he hurriedly asked, trying to pull the man toward the door to his apartment.

“Not the DCT,” the man stammered, fear in his voice.

“Who-,” Elegan began to ask, but then they heard footsteps pounding toward them.

“No time” the man began. He handed Elegan the bundle, which he now realized contained a child.  “Please, take him inside. Don’t let anyone see you!”

“I don’t-” Elegan began, but he was silenced as the man pushed him toward his home.

“Please! He’s coming!”

Now, Elegan was not an easily intimidated man, not with the life he had led, the secrets he kept, but he had a child in his arms at the moment, and had to worry about a life beside his own.

“I’m gonna put him down inside, and then I’ll be right back.”

“Just GO!” the man shouted as he doggedly limped to the end of the street to see if his attacker had found him yet.

Elegan hurried inside. He ran up the emergency stairs, navigating by memory due to the limited light of his sphere. He entered his apartment and quickly placed the baby in his own bed; mindful of the voices he now heard yelling outside. He then rushed to the tinted window to see what was going on, wondering if he should just charge outside despite what the man had said. He looked out, and could see nothing, but he could hear their words.

“Where’s the child?” a strange voice asked, surprising Elegan with his accent, for it seemed very proper for one who was running around the city shooting people.

“Gone. You won’t find him,” the injured man answered.

“I doubt that,” the other person sneered. A strange energy pulsed from the stranger that Elegan could feel from his vantage point. “What do you think you’re doing, Raith? Did you hide the seer’s child too?”

The wounded man paused, struggling to speak. “You’ll get nothing more from me. I told you I’m not gonna go along with this any more.”

The neighborhood lights begun to turn back on. They were barely bright enough for Elegan to make out the two silhouettes down below, with one holding up the other by the shirt collar in a threatening manner.

“You’ve done nothing but slow me down tonight. I will find both children. You cannot stop what is coming.”

“Leave Jesse alone! He’s not what you wanted, we both know that!”

“Both you and the Seer have denied me tonight. He took his own life to atone, it is only fitting that you pay a similar price,” the other man hissed, his voice now barely audible from Elegan’s window.

In that moment a red light filled the street as the attacker fired his weapon, dropping the other man on the spot. In that second of illumination, Elegan saw Raith, dropping lifeless to the floor. His attacker was masked, covered in black. He fit seamlessly into the shadows of the street. The only thing Elegan could clearly make out was his weapon, something that made Elegan shrink back in terror.

He has a Fang. He’s half Rora.

Somehow, the man must have sensed Elegan’s gaze, for he looked up at the window. Elegan threw himself to the floor, utterly distraught at this turn of events, gazing at the life on the bed that was now his responsibility.

After a few moments, he could hear sirens in the distance and rapid footsteps as the man ran off. Elegan waited a few more minutes, just to be sure, and then got up. The lights on the street were slowly returning, illuminating the body sprawled in the middle of the street. A pool of blood collected beside the man’s head. Even as Elegan watched, a DCT transport arrived; someone else must have heard the shot and called them.

Disheartened, Elegan turned away from the window to the baby on his bed, which had begun to cry.

Kid, you’re lucky you waited till now to cry, Elegan thought, knowing how close he had come to having the dark man investigate the apartment building.

Elegan took the child in his arms. He cradled him, trying to get the child to go back to sleep. He reached behind his bed into a hidden stash and pulled forth his own Fang, feeling comforted by its weight.

There’s nothing wrong with being cautious.

Elegan looked at the child, who continued to wail, utterly at a loss. He had no supplies to care for a baby, he had nothing to feed it if it was hungry, no toys for him to play with. He’d lived a solitary life for almost twenty years, and this child now needed him, strange though it was.

So Elegan used the only aid he currently had, and he sung to the baby. A quiet song about a land of sleep, with soft pillows, warm blankets, and the gentle sound of falling rain, a song his own mother had once sung to him. He poured his unique abilities into the song, willing the baby to fall asleep, fearing that the attacker might hear the child and return.

Luckily the child, Jesse as his father had called him, soon fell asleep. Elegan placed him back on the bed and then quietly sat down in a chair.

He stared at the baby, overwhelmed at the enormous responsibility that had been dropped into his lap. He remembered his own father’s words from almost two decades earlier, speaking of a future in which he saw a son for Elegan, though Elegan would never marry. Elegan realized then and there that he had no choice but to keep the child.

Elegan would never forget that night. He would always remember the look on the man’s face as he gave his own son and child to some stranger he found on the street. He worried about the desperation that would drive a parent to the point of sacrificing his own life for that of his child, a sacrifice that Ele­gan felt he had to honor.

Elegan would take the child, an­­­­­­­­­d with his contacts in the government he would forge papers saying that he had adopted Jesse, giving him his own last name. He vowed to raise Jesse like he would his own son. Elegan would not tell the boy what had happened that night, not until Jesse was old enough to shoulder the burden and accept what had happened to his father.

Little did Elegan know that the child in his keeping was part of a greater plan. The events of that night had been orchestrated by powers beyond the mere mortals involved. There was more to young Jesse than Elegan could ever imagine, and his coming of age would have consequences felt throughout Aquaterra, and the veiled world beyond.

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