Epilogue: A New Beginning

The Firsts decided that it was time to find either a successor or add members to their Tomb Guardians. Merlin approached Drew to be his successor the day that Sophia's body was placed on display for everyone to pay their final respects to her, and gave him a week before beginning they would begin his instruction.

Chris and Raina were approached during the funeral, while the smell of burning flesh permeated the air and the flames licked towards the star strewn sky. Raina, missing most of her memory, and Chris also began their Guardian training the same week. No one has heard from then since.

Andromeda made a public announcement to all factions of her brothers Night Guard that she was now their leader, and would not spew the lies that her brother did. She would be transparent and held a private funeral for his body.

During all of this, the Firsts conspired to bring Sophia back anyway that they could as Niala wanted her to be her successor. But Andromeda had other reasons, reasons she kept hidden. She owed Sophia and Fastclaw not only her life, but her soul and she wanted to repay the two.

As Merlin did not practice Necromancy, it took them precious days to find a Necromancer they could trust enough to do the job. After four days, Niala found Sheeba, a Mage and Necromancer and willing to try.

Andromeda had never killed her brother, he owed all of his experiments his life but to bring someone back, someone had to die.

Sheeba was small in height with the dead grey eyes of a Necromancer and black hair and skin that seemed to draw you into their depths. When she spoke to the gather Firsts her voice was soft rasp of one who spoke with dead. "It is unusual to wait so long to bring someone back, but it is possible if the magic and sacrifice are strong enough. And I cannot guarantee that they will come back as separate beings, not with what you are telling me," she whispered, arranging various herbs and such around Sophia's body and the empty table next to her. "Is your sacrifice strong enough? And can you go through with it?"

Ten pairs of eyes flashed with anger and conviction when she questioned their resolve. "Our sacrifice owes her as much, if not more than we do," Andromeda said, gesturing towards her companions. The Necromancer nodded and asked for the sacrifice. Andromeda left the small room and came back with her unconscious brother in her arms.

The Necromancer adjusted Archimedin so his pose was similar to Sophia's prone figure. "I need you all to leave so that the spell does not take you by accident."

The Firsts after exchanging cautious looks, bowed their heads in acknowledgement of the Mages warning. At the door that lead back to the main rooms of Night Guard, Niala paused and turned around and pierced the Necromancer with her two toned gaze. "If she does not come back, you better hope we do not find you." Sheeba's eyes flashed once at the threat before Niala slammed the door shut and she started chanting.

I screamed, the raw and primal sound ripping my vocal chords. Pain, red and hot, burning and all consuming, ripped through my chest where my heart used to be. Right now, it was fire and it was winning.

A hand clamped down over my mouth and voices started shouting, trying to hear each other over my din. Panic set in just as someone jabbed a needle into the crook of my elbow. Whatever they gave me kicked in quick and the pain lessened slowly.

Opening my eyes, I shut them and whimpered as the fierce light bit into them. "Oh God, give me the gauze, QUICK!" the last word was shouted. I winced away from the sound, and squinted, the pain medication making me feel fuzzy.

Five figures were hovering over me, each trying to save my life. "Fuck, that was close," Andromeda cursed, her shoulders slumping. I glanced down at my chest, curiosity burning through the fuzziness. Neat lines of black stitching held the folds of the skin above my heart together and the muscle in question still beat, though it hurt with each movement. Thanks to the pain meds, I didn't care. Part of me wondered how the hell I could still be alive while the rest enjoyed the feeling of floating.

"How am…" I started to say, but my voice came out in a rasp and everyone stopped talking to look at me. "Alive," I finished, my voice somewhere between a growl and a purr.

Five sets of eyes blinked in unison. "Sleep," whispered Merlin, resting his hand on my sweaty forehead. I felt darkness pulling at me, watched Merlin's frown, and then felt the magic as he finally called enough to knock me out.

When I came to I was sitting in a chair, head lolling slightly as my body fought through the magic and drugs to wake up. Something very important and life changing was happening around me and I needed to pay attention.

Off to my right someone was chanting in Witch Tongue, the words flowing freely as if Witch Tongue was the speaker's first language and not his second. The scents of blood and smoke filled the air and I opened my eyes to see what was happening.

Merlin was moving slowly clock-wise around me and on the border of a circle of runes painted with blood. I could smell three different people in the blood; mine, Niala's and Merlin's. Torches were lit on the walls around us, their blue-white light bleaching the colors out of everything. I didn't recognize the small circular room with its natural walk walls, hard packed dirt floor and the smell of sand and desert under the scents of blood and smoke.

I blinked and lifted my head, tilting it back and caught sight of Niala. She was standing behind me and her eyes were focused on Merlin with a surprising intensity, like a predator stalking its prey. She glanced down at me and gave me a small smile, her eyes sad. Confused, I looked down and saw that I was sitting in a circle and that Niala was standing in the circle between mine and the one Merlin was moving around.

Magic shifted and grew, like a wave building off shore and waiting to fall on the unsuspecting shore. In this case, the shore was me and fear built up in my belly, burning through the pain meds and magic. The primal side that was Fastclaw rose, growling and yet it was not her. Panic set in and I tried to move, but the bindings holding me to the chair were thick parachute rope and trucker's knots around my arms and legs.

Fastclaw was gone, no longer a separate part of me. The Soul-meld had done something to us, combined us somehow, turning me into something new and similar to a Werewolf. Straining, the knots tightened and dug deep into my skin. I screamed as the panic and fear boiled over.

The magic released then, crashing into me like a tsunami and a hurricane all at once. My body and mind were pounded with magic and I heard Niala's scream rising with mine. Pain ripped through my body from nowhere and everywhere at once, from my core tlt5o tips of my fingers and toes and back, feeding off itself like a nuclear explosion.

Then it was gone, the magic receded like the tide and I found myself slumped over in my chair, unable to comprehend what had just happened.

Merlin sliced through my bonds with a knife, lifted me into his arms, and then lowered me into a stone coffin I had not noticed earlier. I noticed Niala crumpled on the floor, panting, her limbs shaking just as the coffin walls cut off my line of sight.

"Rest well Sophia, until you are needed again," Merlin whispered, resting his hand on my forehead. Magic seeped from the coffin walls and I found myself falling, not noticing when the lid closed over me.

Eventually understanding swept over me as my thoughts drifted off to lala land for nth time.

I was the First Shapeshifter now, and I was buried alive in Niala's tomb, waiting. I hate waiting.

Do you understand now why this book is so dangerous? Why it could kill us all or save us all? The world thinks Sophia is dead, and she has become a legend and when the time comes that we need her, she will save us all.

How do I know?

Because she saved me.