PART 1: The Prophecy
The people in the Rayran Forest were not vastly different from everyone else, but they were unique enough to notice a startling change. The small village had not changed in hundreds of years and rarely had visitors, so it was quite surprising for all the people who lived there when they saw a strange unfamiliar woman wandering through. She didn't seem to have a purpose and she did not look up from her palm, so no one felt comfortable enough to confront her.
James Zane could feel someone looming over him as he maintained his deceased mother's garden and, at first, tried not to notice. He, at the age of fourteen, ran the household by himself after his parents were killed a year back, so he generally tried to wait for others to help tell him what to do. He was a good looking boy or, at least, he would be someday, once his young cuteness wore off. Still, as the shadow continued to wait for his reaction, he began to feel anxious that whoever was near him simply didn't feel right; it wasn't someone he knew.
Finally, he raised his head after he finished pulling a weed from the garden. She was wearing a long, white dress that weaved into the dirt he was kneeling in, and her hair fell perfectly over her shoulders in long, blonde curls. There was something about the way her head covered the sun as her hand reached out towards him that made him think there was something very peculiar about the whole deal.
"Hm," she mused, opening her palm. As she did, a gold chain fell from it, but she kept it weaved in her fingers so it hung in front of James's eyes. There was a small green stone linked onto the chain and, as James looked into it, he immediately saw a slight glow.
"Hm?" he repeated, looking up at her. "What's 'hm'?"
"I'm just surprised," she replied, twirling the chain back into her hand and putting it around her neck. When it touched her skin, the glow died down and the bead turned a solid green. "Is there anyone else around?"
"What do you mean?" James inquired, rising to his feet.
"A father," she said. "A young father. Or, perhaps, an older brother. Or a dashing cousin. There must be someone else."
"No, just me," James said, feeling uneasy about her words. "And you are?"
"Louisa," she responded.
"Louisa," James repeated. "Louisa?"
"Yes?" Louisa said.
"Please be careful about where you're standing."
Louisa looked down at her feet, and then stepped out of the dirt as James got back down on his knees and returned to his work.
"What are you doing?" Louisa said, crossing her arms.
"Gardening," James answered.
"I know that," Louisa rolled her eyes as she took the jewel in her hand and rocked it back and forth like a pendulum. "I meant, why aren't you inquiring as to why I'm here, and what the grand plan of the universe is?"
"Should I be?"
"Yes, you should be."
"Why do I feel like you wouldn't answer me even if I asked?" James mused with a sigh. He glanced around to see if any of his neighbors were outside, but he didn't see any. Louisa was only standing idly by, as if waiting for him to continue, so he finally gave in and asked, "What's that glowing thing?"
"Only the Rain Stone," Louisa replied. "I was sent here to find the one who will save this world. I was told that when I found him, the Rain Stone would glow." She shrugged as if what she said had no weight. "Interested?
"So that's why you were looking for a dashing cousin, is it?" James said, sitting down casually. "A little disappointed that I'm the one you found"
Louisa tapped her foot and let go of the stone. "May I ask you a question?" she asked, and he nodded graciously. "Why don't you seem overwhelmed or surprised?" she asked.
"Well," James began. "Frankly, a beautiful woman waltzing into our village with a little glow trick and telling me I'm 'The One' sent by a mysterious employer…I don't know. Something about it just seems like something Luke thought up as a joke."
Louisa smiled and twirled her hair around her fingers. "You think I'm beautiful?" she said, sounding flattered.
"A little," James laughed. "But you're too old for me."
"Too old!" Louisa exclaimed, putting her hands on her hips. "Well, that's fine! I'm not interested in you anyway. Well, not in that sense. But if you're really the Prophesized One, then I cannot return to the Rain Spirit without you!"
"I'm a little busy right now," James reminded her.
"There will be time for that later." Louisa stepped back into James's garden and took him by the arm, attempting to pull him to his feet, but he remained where he was. She finally gave a huff and dropped his arm. "You have to come with me. It's very important."
"Do you even know who I am, Louisa?" James questioned.
"Apparently, the descendant of a very great man who saved this world one thousand years ago," Louisa said. "I know so. I was there."
James only blinked at her, and then went back to his gardening without responding.
Louisa cleared her throat several times to get his attention.
"Look," he said. "This is great and everything, but I have a lot of work today. If I don't get take care of these then the weeds will grow in and then I'd have to start all over."
"Can you be satisfied with that as your only consequence?" Louisa threw her arms up in the air and began to pace. "There won't even be a garden if something is not done soon. And it will all be your fault."
"What do you mean?" said James. "There won't even be a garden? What's that mean?"
"This whole world will be destroyed," Louisa replied, her back to him and her hands on her hips. "Didn't I mention that?"
James looked down at the dirt and shook his head. "Whatever," he said.
"Coward!" she nearly shouted as she faced him again.
James jumped in surprise and got back to his feet to address her more personally. "Relax," he ordered, putting his hands on her shoulders.
"I refuse," Louisa said, shaking him off of her. "I won't leave this spot until you come with me to meet with the Rain Spirit. He said it was very important."
"Rain Spirit?" James sighed. "What are you talking about?"
"Take a look at the power you can wield," Louisa said as she took the necklace off and motioned for him to take it. And, though he was reluctant, he lowered his head a little so she could place it around his neck. As soon as the chain touched his skin, it began to glow brightly again, emanating from the center. He could feel warmth enter his body and he suddenly didn't feel so exasperated; in fact, he felt a certain sense of relief wash over him and that garden didn't seem important anymore.
He didn't even realize he had closed his eyes, but he opened them when he felt something wet drip on his face. He peered up at the sky and watched as clouds rolled into the area, covering the sun and stifling the sounds of the birds with the rain rustling through the trees. The rain picked up in only seconds, pouring down on the village and the neighbor frantically ran inside, leaving all of his tools behind. James glanced around at all the homes he could see and witnessed all the other people doing the same thing, except Louisa; she stood firm as the rain pelted her perfect curls into unruly tangles.
"What happened?" James asked, raising his voice over the thunder.
"Well, it's started to rain," Louisa noted, tucking her hair behind her ear.
James took the stone and looked at it again; still glowing as green as before.
"I don't think you can get any gardening done in this weather," Louisa observed.
"No, I don't think so," James agreed.
"So do you want to meet my friend, the Rain Spirit now?"
James contemplated her question, and focused on her deep blue eyes instead of the shine of the stone. Then he hesitated. "Where?"
She smiled and took his hand, leading him through the mud to the Forest that surrounded the tiny village.
"By the way, Jimmy—"
"Jimmy?" he interrupted.
She nearly stopped walking as she looked at him quizzically.
"Is it all right to call you that?" she inquired.
"I didn't tell you my name," James explained.
"Oh you didn't?" Louisa wore a false perplexed expression. "Who do you think I am?"
"I don't know," James answered. "You haven't told me yet."
"The rain seems to be letting up." Louisa looked at the sky with satisfaction. "Isn't it strange how the weather changes so quickly?"
"Wait," James stopped her. "Yeah right. You tell me what's going on. Who are you? How do you know who I am? And what is this all about?"
"I told you already what that is," said Louisa. "It's the Rain Stone. It belongs to the Rain Spirit."
"Rain Spirit," James said. "You know the Rain Spirit."
"Yes," Louisa said. "I wouldn't say we're best friends, but I do know him."
"I guess they didn't tell you, but the last Spirit died a hundred years ago."
"Oh really?" Louisa seemed amused with his statement. "I don't think it's fair that no one ever told him that then, do you?"
"All right, that's enough," James said, pulling his arm away from Louisa and holding his ground. "Tell me what's going on. Right now."
"I've been trying to," Louisa said. "But we have to move as we talk because it really is very urgent that we get to the Rain Spirit soon. He's dying after all, and he needs the Rain Stone returned to him as soon as possible."
"If he needs the stone so badly, why give it to me?"
"Oh, he hasn't given it to you," Louisa laughed. "Well, not yet anyway. You're just borrowing it for now, to keep it away from the Forces."
"There are Forces here?"
"Yes. It's trying to kill him. I think it might just succeed."
"You don't seem to care."
"I don't care about most things," Louisa said plainly. "But I'll tell you this; I do care about the fate of this world. I am part of it, after all, and I would be most unhappy if it simply disappeared because you're taking forever to simply step forward."
James cautiously started to move again, and Louisa took his arm.
"The Rain Spirit sent me to find you because you are the descendant of a man called Lorne," Louisa explained. "A thousand years ago, Lorne established balance in this world by creating six spirits; Rain, Soul, Shadow, Light, Life…" Louisa paused a moment. "Oh I know this. I'm forgetting one. What is it?"
Louisa tapped her head.
"How embarrassing!" she almost laughed. "Rain, Soul, Shadow, Light, Life…Sky! That's the one. I always forget that one."
"Right," James said. "But they all died already."
"Wait. He gave one to each nation to guard the power and preserve the balance," Louisa continued. "Rain, Soul, Shadow, Light, Life and Sky. When the spirits die, they create a corporeal stone." Louisa reached out and fiddled with the stone around James's neck. "All the other spirits have since… died, and moved on and all that. Or maybe they just departed from this world. The stones are passed onto the leaders of the nations and are kept in the family. The Rain Spirit is the only spirit that remains, though that won't last long, I don't think."
"If he's still alive, then why is there a stone?" James asked, thinking he had caught her in a loophole. "You said the stone is only created when the spirit dies."
"It's more like…" Louisa thought of the perfect way to say it. "The spirit creates the stone when he feels like he will die… and then he dies. The Rain Spirit is fairly certain he will die at this point. Sad, isn't it?"
"So why does he need me?" James questioned.
"Haven't we already been through this?" Louisa sighed. "Because the stone glows when it is near you, that means you are the descendant of Lorne, creator of the six spirits. The one who balanced this world. Does this not mean anything to you? You have to save the Rain Spirit or else there won't be any spirits left in this world. And I'll be all lonesome."
"You're a spirit?" James said.
"It's complicated," Louisa admitted. "But look! Here we are."
James peered through the drizzle of the rain to see a gigantic shrine standing before him. It was ancient and completely overgrown with roots and vines, though he did recognize the building as the place he and Luke used to play when they were younger. In fact, many of the village children would often retreat to the old shrine and read the writings on the wall that told the story of the Rain Spirit and how he came to be. Then they would wrestle until they got bored and headed back to the village to help their parents with the gardening.
"I've been here before," James reported.
"I know," Louisa smiled. "I've seen you. But it's been years since the last time, hasn't it?"
"You've been watching?" James sounded surprised.
"Yes," Louisa nodded. "I'm that bored with eternity."
She tugged his arm towards the steps and pulled him up. There were one hundred steps exactly, because James counted.
"So what's this Rain Spirit guy like?" James asked as they reached the last step and stood in front of the massive doors. "Should I bow or whatever?"
"You still don't believe, do you?" Louisa chuckled while James still looked doubtful. "Well, your mind will soon change, I think."
She put her hand on the door, and then stopped. She looked back at him.
"Do you know how to fight?" she asked, suddenly sounding serious.
"What do you mean?" James said. "Why?"
"Because," Louisa said. "The Forces is attracted to power. When you go in, it will be attracted to the stone around your neck because the Rain Spirit doesn't have anymore. It might try to kill you. Can you fight it?"
"I've never fought one before," James said uneasily.
Louisa sighed and thrust her hand into the door, then pulled out a glistening sword by the handle. It looked brand new; the handle was golden with jewels bedazzling it, and the blade slid cleanly through the rock of the door. She observed the sword in its entirety, and then glanced around aimlessly before discovering what she was looking for: a sheath with a broken buckle lying at the foot of the massive doorway. She threw the beautiful weapon inside the aging holder and offered it to James.
"You can borrow this," Louisa said. "For protection. Do you know how to swing it?"
"With my arms?" James suggested.
"Smart and funny!" Louisa exclaimed as if James were a young child. Of course, to her, he must have been.
"Look, why don't you just hold onto the stone?" James suggested.
"Then the Forces might attack me," Louisa pointed out. "And that is most certainly the last thing I want."
"How reassuring," said James. "Aren't you supposed to be a guardian or whatever?"
"More like a guide," Louisa replied. "Besides, all I have to do is bring you to the Rain Spirit and my job is done."
She put her hand against the door and gave it a push as James stood ready with both hands on his sword. He kept his eyes focused on the space in front of him, but after a few moments he realized that the door was not opening, so he looked at Louisa who was struggling with the weight of the door.
"A little help?" she suggested.
James rolled his eyes and started to push the door as well. After they got it open just barely enough for the two of them to fit through, they allowed the door to stay where it was as they slinked through the crack.
"We'll just leave this open," Louisa suggested, referring to the door.
James glanced around the room; it hadn't changed at all since the last time he had been there; just as old and just as dirty as before. Though, with the door hardly opened, it was much darker than he remembered. He could barely make out the silhouettes of the ancient statues lining the walls, each with a torch that had not seen a flame in hundreds of years.
"I know in other regions, people go to their Shrines to pray," James said, peering closer at the statue closest to the light. "How come this Shrine isn't open to the public?"
"It is," Louisa sighed, looking at her fingernails.
As Louisa began to tend to her hair and squeeze the water from her dress, James leaned in to read the writing that was inscribed at the foot of the statue. "Lorne; the Ancient."
"Enlightening," James said, turning away from the statue without bothering to look at it again. If he really was related to this Lorne character, he wasn't sure if he wanted to see a statue commemorating his good deeds. "Hey, Louisa? Where's this Rain Spirit?"
"So you believe now?" Louisa asked.
"No way," James answered. "I just want to prove to myself it isn't true."
"So now you need proof," Louisa said, running her fingers through her hair as she stepped lightly across the room. James watched her move, and soon he could only see the faint outline of her wet, white dress as she disappeared into the darkness. Just as he was about to call out to her, he looked down at the stone as it began to glow again. He removed it from around his neck and held it out like a lantern, and it did provide him some light to the area right in front of him, as he moved through the shrine to find Louisa.
"Louisa?" he said. "Where are you?"
A hand suddenly shot out from the darkness and grabbed the wrist he held outstretched. He jumped and almost yelled, but he held it back once he saw Louisa step into the light with a grin on her face.
"I don't think you should offer this stone up to anyone who might want it," she said, lightly guiding his arm so the stone was closer to his chest.
"Enough with these games," James ordered. "Show me this Rain Spirit now or else I'm leaving."
"He's here," Louisa said.
"Where?" James looked around as far as he could see, which wasn't particularly far.
"Right here," said Louisa as she put her hands on James's shoulders and gave him a light push towards the floor. He stumbled a bit and glared crossly at her when his balance was regained. He knelt down to the ground and used the light of the stone to locate anything out of the ordinary, but he was largely unsuccessful.
"What are you looking for?" Louisa asked, leaning over him.
"I have no idea." James stood up with an exasperated sigh. "This is stupid. I'm going back home." He thrust the stone into her hands and pushed her away, perhaps more roughly than he had originally intended. She only took it and watched him with her eyes wide. "Thanks for the adventure but go find something else to play your practical jokes on."
He stormed towards the light from the doorway as Louisa stood in silence, the green glow immediately dying down as soon as it left James's hands. When he reached the door, he glanced back and, suddenly became nervous when he couldn't see her anymore.
"Louisa?" he called. "Are you still there?"
With his hand still on the door, he took one step back towards where he thought she might have still been standing.
"Come on," he said quietly. "We'll go back together, all right?"
When he got no response, he found himself getting unjustifiably angry. He clutched the sword handle and threw it to the ground, then haphazardly removed the sheath from around him, throwing it on top of the sword.
"I'm leaving," he said.
He turned to leave but, just as he did, the door swung shut by an invisible force. The loud crash it made shook the entire shrine so a bit of debris from the ceiling fell down and created small noises throughout the room. James tried to pry the door open, but the weight was far too great for him to accomplish such a task on his own, so he spun around to face the room again, except it was even darker before.
"Louisa," he said. "If this is you, cut it out."
He started to walk into the room again, and felt the sword under his foot. After a moment's contemplation, he picked it up cautiously and held it out in front of him. He didn't even stop to consider the possibility of accidentally impaling Louisa, but he was so nervous at that point he didn't even know if he would care.
In that exact moment, he heard a strange sound coming from someplace in the room. The shrine was so gigantic that it was nearly impossible for him to pinpoint exactly where the sound was coming from, but James knew he did not like the sound. It was creeping; clinging to the vines that surrounded and weaved throughout the entire shrine, and the longer James listened, the more he began to understand that none of this was really a joke at all.