The show began. A vivid display of color and light shot up from the ground and trickled its way back down to earth, where a festive cast of people watched in awe and admiration. It was a special day for the humans; a celebration of birth.
One girl in particular watched intently with fixation on the breathtaking sight, a wildfire of pride and child-like wonder taking root in her very core. Suddenly, her body gave a shiver for the twentieth time that day. She should know; she counted.
She had a feeling, a strange feeling, and she was sure that others could feel it, too. Although no one knew what was happening exactly. Today was the day for celebration, and unlike any other year, they carried out their traditions respectfully. This year was no different, but… well, maybe different wasn't the word.
The sun had not risen like it normally did. One would expect it to come up in the morning, go down in the evening, and come back up again just as it should. But this time, it was a little slow. It's like it wasn't doing its job well enough anymore.
But what good would a worry do? She watched and listened to each explosion of color rise and fall, until a peculiar something caught her eye.
A distant firework unlike one she had ever seen shot down from the sky. It was the oddest color… light-blue? She tightened her gaze on the faint glow. As it neared the ground, she waited for the explosion. It never came. Puzzled, she thought it to be a dud, a botched firework. But she gave it a rightful second thought, wondering if not a firework, what else could it have been on such a night?
Garrick felt a sweaty heat pressing into the side of his face. Drowsily, he barely felt his body stir underneath the blankets as he turned over. He breathed out long and hard, unwilling to open his eyes.
He assumed he was alone. And he was left to that assumption only until he felt another stirring presence beside him. Imagination shocking him awake, he snapped opened his eyes and threw back his arms away from it.
"Torrin?" Garrick sluggishly breathed, relaxing again into the warmth of drowsiness. Torrin lay beside him, fast asleep and wiggling lightly while he dreamt.
Rather than let the boy dream, Garrick had the mind to gently shake him awake. "Torrin, hey, Torrin."
The young boy stirred again, but this time cracked open his eyelids to see his "guardian angel". He smiled sweetly. "Good morning, Garrick. Sleep well?"
"I-I really dunno." Garrick slurred, lifting himself with one arm. His formerly injured arm gave a jolt, but he hardly noticed. Once up, his eyebrows knit as he adjusted to a place that he should not have been.
He was in a small wooden house, like a cottage built for a family. In the bedroom, there was a tall mirror in the corner and a window draped with light-colored curtains. It looked humble enough and comfortable enough, but he had little to no understanding of where he was. One good whiff of the air gave him another clue. Salt? During the silence, he heard a soft rushling sound outside his open window that gave him the next clue.
No. Garrick rose to his feet.
"I found you and dragged you here." Torrin said at last. "Got you dressed and everything."
"I – you… Found me? W-Where's-"
"I don't know."
"Where are we?"
"I don't know, really. I only got here since last night. I just woke up here, in this house. There was a festival going on in the town around here, and I went outside to see fireworks. And that's when I found you by the lake."
"You and me, we're here together in some house by a lake?"
"Yes, that's about the size of things." Torrin sat up and looked out the open window.
Astounded, Garrick walked towards the window, but thought twice after he caught his eye in the reflection of the sturdy mirror. He was wearing neutral, tanned clothing that looked as if it had been hand-sewn by a centuries-old tailor. Like something Torrin might look good in. But other than his new outfit, he looked the same as before. The same as before…
"Torrin, how do we get back? Does this mean we're mortal now…?!" His voice grew more and more desperate as more explicit questions came to mind.
Torrin was silent as he got up to change.
A small bell above the door sounded as Torrin and Garrick stepped inside the noisy restaurant. As they made their way to the back to consult with the bartender, they could feel eyes pressing into them with curiosity and judgment.
From the very moment they stepped inside, Garrick, the former Diviner of Fate, was acquainted with a sensation that made his head begin to throb. The thoughts of the staring crowd poured into his mind like an uncontrollable current. 'Who are they?' 'New faces. Where are they from?' 'I thought the roads were closed off because of the war. They come adrift? They don't look like fighters from the other side.'
Feeling the need to retain his posture and balance, Garrick took a seat at the stool alongside Torrin, who sat quietly. The bartender was nowhere to be found, and so, the two sat and waited. Yet all the while, Garrick couldn't stop the voices. 'That guy seems interesting. I wonder what his story is.' 'Those two together? We don't need that here.' 'Looks like that one's got money. Should be an easy target.'
The moment Torrin noticed his friend's distress, he stopped to see a family of five - humble and hard-pressed, they seemed - take seats behind Garrick. The youngest, a girl, ruffled her dirty dress with a grimy hand as she stared intently at something her mother held. There was an object in her hands that the little girl fancied… Torrin gasped and rocked his foot to tap Garrick in the knee.
Squinting, eyes nearly tearing with strain, Garrick turned to follow Torrin's focus. "That's mine." He said aloud. It hinted danger, and he immediately wished he could take back.
The parents grew wide-eyed at the unwelcome voice and jitterishly turned away from him in avoidance. But the little girl perked her head up and answered in the elders' stead, "I don't think it works too good."
"Can I please have it back?"
"I want to sell it so I can get some food…"
Of all the times for a full-blown headache to surge through. Garrick's head reeled once more, almost feeling his balance give way beneath his feet as he made a stand. He might have tried to steal the device from her hands if it weren't for the dull pain devouring his mind. My head… I can't keep all their thoughts out… My mindreading… What…
Just as Garrick felt Torrin tug on his cotton sleeve, he felt something clear his mind. The sensation was new, light, and focused. Everything around him stopped feeling so menacing, and the storm raging in his head briefly ceased.
A flame sparked on the family's table. Within a flicker, it spread along the hems of the tablecloth, stretching inwards until the entire wooden structure began to crumble. A wild madness swept the room. The parents grabbed their children and fled the building. Others ran to help the bartender put out the flame before the situation worsened.
The phone had been dropped by the family and crushed beneath the heels of panicked people.
Then everything started to blur again. Nauseously so. Voices were sharp enough to pierce through his mindreading barriers, but what they said, Garrick couldn't be sure. He stood cold with shock and guilt. On her way being hurried out the door, the little girl, too, looked back at Garrick to catch one last glimpse. 'Did he do that?'
Torrin's light tug became a full-forced jerk, leading his friend by the shirt out the door.
"T… Torr-?" But Garrick was cut off by a hot acid being shot from his stomach through his mouth. Weak and ashamed, his body leaned against a lamppost to throw up.
Torrin stood meekly by his friend and tenderly rubbed against his back. "Oh, Garrick." His sweet voice shone through the confusion, "What happened in there?"
"I f-felt-" Garrick started, shakily regaining his posture and swallowed thickly, "their thoughts. I'm m-mortal now, but I think my mindreading abilities are still…?"
"You just couldn't control them?"
Garrick wished for escape. He felt sick of interacting with humans. Uncharacteristically, the blond man cursed, "It's like all barriers are just wide open for me to hear. It- gahh, I think I'm going crazy-"
"Your powers will just need getting used to." Torrin halted his friend from following his anger further. "But I didn't know you could use that sort of magic."
"Hah. Magic. That's-" But he stopped. What else could explain the flame cast? Maybe it wasn't Torrin, and maybe it wasn't him. But then again, maybe…?
"Rest and wait here. I'll see if I can't get back inside to get our phone."
Garrick waited. While his heart grew heavy and his body ached, he felt frail and defeated somehow. He watched Torrin walk up to the door, enter as humbly and genteel as a Torrin could muster, but then be escorted out of the small building by a man wearing a uniform.
Their only lead had been crushed and disposed of, leaving the two boys to travel back to their house by the lake, where an alternate plan would be devised.
Garrick rubbed his arm up and down while he sat in bed. I thought it healed, but man, it's starting to hurt again. With those perceptive blue eyes, he noticed the once healing scar begin to turn deep red again. Why?
As soon as Torrin reentered their bedroom, however, Garrick ceased what he was doing and scratched at his neck instead in denial and incognizance.
Little Torrin carried in a tray of food he had cooked for lunch. Hawkishly, Garrick's mouth began to water, but his head gave a quick chirr when he heard Torrin think, 'Ohh, I'm sorry, Garrick, but you and your upset stomach is only getting toast.'
As Torrin sat down beside Garrick to set his toast plate down, he said softly, "There were clothes in the drawers and food in the kitchen… I'd say he went out of his way to make us comfortable."
Before speaking, Garrick took the butterless toast to his mouth and chomped away. He stopped, then said, "'S funny that he'd pick a house by the lake. I always wanted a lake house, but I never told him that. I wonder how he knew-"
Unexpectedly, a confident knock interrupted their sorrowful dialogue.
Both men sat still, waiting for the knocking to cease. They shared a look, and then Torrin got to his feet. Quietly, Garrick followed behind.
No sooner had Torrin opened the door for the visitor, a new voice - accented with a mesh of outlandish tongue - approached the two ex-residents of Runawynd. "Well met, sickly travelers. I'm Cade, and this 'ere is my partner, Treyston. Saw that scene you mates cooked up at the bar, and just came in t' check on ya. 'F you're really not feelin' all that well, mate, you should think about checkin' yourself in at the clinic. We'd be more than happy to take ya."
Standing before the doorway was a talkative, freckled male with a body slightly taller than Torrin's and hair lighter than Garrick's. The boy, Cade, was dressed shabbily with no sleeves but a poor-boy hat to boot. He wore an authentic sideways grin that seemed hardly suited to such a small, unwelcoming town.
As Torrin allowed the stranger in their house, Garrick's eyes strayed to the second man who entered in behind the energetic one. Treyston stood even taller than Garrick, with somewhat duskier skin and dark hair that was swept to the side. He had a more stoic, refined air about him that reminded Garrick of Sylas if he had glasses and a more featured build.
Garrick was unappreciative of the unexpected guests and coldly claimed, "You came here for a reason other than my wellbeing, I'm sure. So what have you come to take from me, if not medical bills?"
"Ouch, them be fightin' words, mate, and I'm not here to fight." Garrick, again, had difficulty keeping Cade's thoughts away, 'Was hoping for some proper introductions 'n such, but since you got your pretty little panties in a bunch right now…'
Treyston lowered a heavy bag from his shoulder, "I know you're sick, but please hear us out. I figured in exchange for this, you might be able to answer some of our questions." He had a quieter, humbler voice; one that Garrick might actually consider haggling with. Then, familiarity struck him. 'I wonder what his story is.' That guy, I read his mind in the bar. Guiltily, he was careful not to arrange eye-contact with the man.
After a bit of digging around, Treyston, at last pulled out a paper bag from his knapsack, and with a spark of professionalism, he handed it out to Torrin, who gave it an inquisitive look. Skeptically, Garrick glanced over at Cade and read, 'Found every piece of it, we did. Barkeep let me keep it as payment for a job I did 'er the other day, bless 'er heart. An' here are the pieces!'
Torrin looked through it, widened his eyes, and turned to Garrick, "Garrick!" Taking out a piece of mechanics from the bag, he burst, "Our phone!" Their lead. He went on to pull out piece after piece and set them each carefully on the kitchen counter. "Oh, Garrick, it's all in pieces, but I think I can repair it!"
"Can you, now?" Cade asked incredulously, removing his hat to swing it around artfully with one hand. "Well, won't ask, won't tell, but what's the story you two sharin'?"
Garrick was quick to retort, "What's your deal, anyway?"
"By trade, we're mercenaries, you know, doing whatever needs doin'. Just came back from the warring country next door and that's when we noticed it, mates." Garrick noticed Cade lean from foot to foot, as if they wore of travel and desired rest. "Wrong somethings are happening."
"Tell me about it…" Garrick said distantly, finally allowing both men to take seats in the dining area, to which, the travelers happily obliged; Cade, in particular, making himself very comfortable. Garrick noticed a disapproving look that Treyston shot towards Cade, who shrugged but smiled nonetheless at the attention he earned. What a strange chemistry between the two.
"You 'ere long enough to see the sky? Noticing weird things, 's all." Cade started, spouting out as if speaking to no one at the table in particular. "First, the sun not rising right, well, you mates showing up from outta nowhere using Lord knows what sort of enchantment- Something ain't right, we can all feel it."
"Wait, the sun rising wrong?" Garrick asked, leaning forward over his folded arms.
"Sure," Treyston added, "Yesterday, the sun decided to rise late again. As in, four hours late. And we have no idea what's causing it. No amount of science can solve it, either. It's like the makings of the world are just – well, I can't say-"
"Failing." Cade wearily continued. "This all happened, what, two days ago? And now, not a goddamned cloud in the sky! Lucky if you spot even one or two! Everything's gettin' all dry without any rain."
Keiran… Garrick prayed, Why would you do something like this?
All at once, there was a sudden rush of white wind that erupted from behind them, giving gravity a shake around the room. Garrick was first to jump from his seat and speed around his chair to see Torrin with his back to the group and hard at focus with "repairing the phone".
"Holy-! What in the f-?" Cade slurred, joining Garrick and Torrin at the counter, while Treyston observed from above them.
It was restored. The small device had power, but any attempt to obtain a map, signal, or reception to Keiran, naturally, ended in vain. They needed a location. An idea of where they could return or where they could find Sylas.
Treyston finally stepped up to ask, "What'd you say your names were again?"
"I'm Torrin, and this is Garrick. We don't really know what's going on either, but we're in a hurry to find someone so we can get back home. The sooner, the better. And if what you've said about earth's situation is true, then we only have a few days left to do it. Garrick, let me pack some things, and we'll take off."
Garrick gave a nod of approval and turned to gather his few necessities, but was intercepted by Cade, who shouted, "Hold on, hold on, not so fast, mate! This a guy you're looking for? He's a beaut, too, no less?"
Neither of the ex-Diviners said a word, and so Cade continued, as seemed to be his strong suit, "Hell of it is, we just came from that warring town next door, and heard they got a situation b'fore we had ours. Guy shows up outta nowhere? Probably your mate?"
Garrick's interest in these two strangers was finally sparked. A new lead was a good lead, and he was ready to follow it.
"Torrin, you ready?" Garrick asked for the second time.
To which, Torrin gave him the same response, "Let me pack just a little more, and then we'll take off. You can wait outside, our – erm, traveling partners are getting antsy."
"Don't remind me." Garrick groaned, sluggishly knocking his side against the bedroom wall for emphasis. "They could just point us in the general direction, but no."
"They'll just stick around until we get to the town over. It's no big deal."
Letting in a breath of heated air, Garrick griped like a cynic, "They just want us for our magic."
But Torrin was quick to comeback, and he did so with the utmost civility, "And we just want them for their sense of direction. Goodness, you can deal."
Childishly, Garrick emitted another groan, but then slunked out the door to entertain the guests.
As soon as he creaked their wooden front door open, he beheld a beautiful scene of earth, nearly forgetting about its misshapen calamities. Though his eyes began to tire, he looked towards the sky and wondered if the sun would ever set that day. He had to admit - though he couldn't be sure the exact time of day - something did seem wrong. It was bright, hot, and quiet; unearthly and unbecomingly so.
The only thing he could hear was the soft whisper of the waves by his lake. Torrin's solemn words echoed through his mind, almost causing his eyes to sting upon realization of such betrayal, 'I'd say he went out of his way to make us comfortable.' It all seemed perfect… But why?
'Aw, Trey, just give in.' As if his mindreading was stronger than any of his senses, Garrick read speech. He traveled to the source – over the grassy hill behind his home - to find Cade and Treyston, standing rather awkwardly in a less-than face-to-face conversation. They stood a distance from the house, forcing Garrick to wonder what they were talking about so secretively. After all, he hardly felt trustworthy. Why should he believe the direction of two wayward travelers?
As Garrick made his way as stealthily as a Garrick could, he crept up the hill until he heard Treyston say, "I just… want to make sure it's all right… traveling like that." He said with difficulty, as if choosing his words considerately or treading over grounds that he didn't wish to cross. "You told me yourself, you'd never want to go back unless it was a job, so- I mean, is this worth it?" 'I don't want you going back to the town that hurt you. The town you ran away from.'
"Treyston." Although Cade spoke it, 'Trey' was what Garrick heard. "I told you, a'right? I'll be fine, and I got you to back me up, 'm I right?"
Garrick examined Cade make certain eye-contact with his partner, but Treyston's troubled face only squinted inward as he adjusted his glasses with class. "Now, you know I can't promise that."
'For Gods' sakes, please do.' "Come on, mate! Some team player you turned out to be!"
When Cade took two steps closer, Garrick began to wonder whether or not he should be gave Cade a swift punch to the shoulder, shoving him away. To which, the shorter man grinned a little and took it with a strange, kindled dignity.
"Just stay out of trouble. I can't watch over you all the time, you moron." Treyston said.
'All the time… I wish it was for all the time, mate.'
Wow. What have I stepped into? Disbelieving at his inadvertent read, Garrick decided it best that he took his leave. He approached his front door, trying his best not to make a sound - even shutting the front door behind him with noiseless grace.
Standing over one well-stuffed knapsack, Torrin had just finished his work to turn and see Garrick's stunned expression. Cutely, he smiled and inquisitively cocked his head for explanation.
Garrick jolted towards the eye-locking presence. He decided to tell Torrin exactly what he witnessed, starting with, "I don't know about this."
"Oh, Garrick, please just deal."
Their journey began on the very same day. The same day Garrick had awoken on earth, the same day that he lit a table on fire, and the same day that he and Torrin met with two mercenaries. The more Garrick thought about the slow progression of time, the more he felt an exhaustion drain him. Through the dense trees from above, the sun burned into Garrick's light clothing, and he watched it soak up all life from around him. Plants began to wilt, people began to lose energy… It wasn't right.
The next town over was nearly thirty miles away, which proved to be a somewhat decent trek for the odd team of four. Torrin expected that Garrick would send their two advisors away in a timely fashion – given all the griping he did beforehand - but he never did. It made him wonder how much longer it would take… Cade certainly liked to talk.
"Didn't want to be pushy or anythin', but I guess I was right not to ask whether you two mates 'd stay and join me and Treyston in merc-"
Torrin noticed something a little strange. Garrick was a typically itchy person, scratching away at his neck, face, or arms regularly during conversation. Given all the time he spent with him, Torrin came to understand his habits quite intimately. But there was something about the way he scratched at his arm – his one and same arm that had been injured before – that made Torrin keep a closer eye.
"Figured as much. Well, I can promise you, we'll find your pretty boy soon. I can't imagine what 'chu been through. I won't judge or nothin', but say, can you teach me magic? Oh, that 'd be somethin' out there on the job, a'right!"
Listening half-heartedly, Garrick looked past the forested trees and towards the sky to see if he could find any signs of movement from above. It took a moment for him to recognize that the pause in Cade's speech was supposed to be his inning for a response. "I can't," Garrick said at last.
"Fine. I get it. It's for certain, special people only. A chosen few, I wager?"
"Guess so." Garrick answered vaguely.
Instead of participating, Torrin kept busy watching each footprint he made into the crunchy dirt roads, eyes every so often gravitating to any budding flower alongside it.
He did it again.
"Garrick," The anxious Torrin started, trying to keep his cool without alarming his travel partners. "What's wrong with your arm?"
Garrick did a double-take in Torrin's direction, "Oh, it's- no big deal."
"It started hurting again as soon as we got here, didn't it?" But then again, forget it; he had no time for formality. Instead of letting this notification go as he did the first time, Torrin knew how to handle Garrick. He stopped, grasped his sleeve, and demanded in a soft voice, "Let me heal it."
"There's nothing to heal, Torrin!" Though Garrick was fervent and ready to pull away, he thought twice about doing something so rash to little Torrin, who peeled up Garrick's sleeve and readied a spell over the arm.
Torrin made a face as he observed the wound for the first time up-close. It looked as if all its healing was slowly put in reverse, as if it would go back to its original bruise from before. It had only been a day or so (but really, who could count now), and already it had turned deep red.
Garrick twisted his neck as far away from Torrin's eyes as possible. "You don't have to-"
"Now's not the time." And with that, the same white wind like before was rushed across Garrick's limb, running along it with soft, cooling pulses.
The red was gone, but as the four returned to their walking – Cade beginning his interrogation once again - Torrin still had to wonder if the pain had faded away, too.
"Now from here, the place you'll be lookin' for 's right over there!" All party members followed Cade's scrawny finger to the highlighted burg that followed their dirt road.
"And what sort of establishment is that, I wonder?" Torrin piped, fixing his eyes on the glimpse of a town he saw.
Cade scratched at his small, freckled nose. "Oh, ya know, one of those places. Anyways, I could take ya in there, but I can't say whether or not we'd be let in. Only the best of men work there, y'see. Paying customers only. That sort of thing."
"Really, Cade?" Treyston prodded his partner with a strange humor. "And how would you know this?"
Cade's lips kinked a smirk, welcoming banter, "Prick. I only know about what I've heard of. 'Sides, they're not interesting to me, anyways." He insinuated, though perhaps only Garrick understanding the true nature of that message.
"Idiot, I should hope not." The two seemed to be perfectly contrasted. One rough country boy and one sophisticated young man.
After a few breaks and leg-numbing amounts of walking time down the thrashened roads and forested pathways, the men finally reached the town's border. The now setting sun cast an orange glow around the streets and glinting buildings that drew them in like a crow to a mound of gold. In comparison to the town they had just abandoned, this one was bustling with a strange clamor of people and machinery.
It was both a consolation and mystery that Garrick's mindreading this time around seemed to be in order. Perhaps spending time with his two guests had been a positive experience for him and adjusting to his abilities?
"I s'pose you two 'll head straight there? Me and Treyston will set up an inn for the two of – or maybe I should get another room for your mate?"
"Thanks, Cade, but don't trouble yourself." Garrick smiled wearily, smearing some of the dirt along his cheek as he itched the side of his face.
"Well, you may not be wantin' the rest, but you sure as hell need a shower." Cade added with a witty smirk, "I'll trouble myself, thank you."
Garrick watched as half of his exhausted traveling camaraderie walked familiarly down the streets. Though a soft bed sounded all-too enticing to the man, he had no mind to follow them. He needed Sylas.
As he made his way into the noisy, borough – Torrin following close behind – he counted the differences between poverty and wealth in this town, all the while searching for that messy part of town. From one side, the streets seemed lined with the common people working, talking, living in rhythm of boundaries; but further along, there were homes lined with greeneries, lights, and extravagance. Garrick couldn't help but wonder what sort of oppression was at play here. Not that each town's politics could ever grasp his full attention, due to all the quick visits he'd made all over earth.
At last, they arrived under the bold sign they had been searching for. But Garrick hesitated in stepping forward. When face-to-face with such a building, he began to feel disgraced and unconvinced. Why would Sylas be here? What kind of lead would he have followed to have ended up here?
Torrin was first to approach the man at the door, and for a moment, Garrick was envious of his fearlessness. "Excuse me, we're looking for a man about so-tall with dark short hair? He might go by the name Sylas?"
The doorman's words treated Torrin with care, "Oh, our new hire. Sharp as a tack, that one. The boys here love him. Oddest fellow you ever did meet, though. I'd let you in to see him, but entrance is for paying customers only. I'm so sorry, but I can't let you in otherwise."
Surely, bribery would not work on such an upstanding man, and so Torrin took out Garrick's wallet to flash him a large sum. "Then let me buy him. He'll see me." He said resolutely, unhindered by a sudden objecting outburst from Garrick.
The man seemed impressed. "He's not for sale, but if you say so, young sir. Come on in." And he opened the door.
No sooner had the man opened the door that little by little more thoughts around him and through the open doorway seemed to spiral into Garrick's mind. It was starting up again.
Torrin turned to him and opened his mouth to speak, but it was drowned by the rushing waves of mindreading after the doorman opened the gate. Garrick watched his friend be escorted into the building and disappear beyond the doorway.
Alone on the streets, Garrick cursed, shaking his head and shutting his eyes - trying to cast them out. It was no use, and he began to feel sick again. I can't do it. I can't go in. He thought to sit, catch his breath, and wait for Torrin and Sylas to emerge, but his body walked him further away until he collapsed in a small, closed-off alleyway. Hiding himself from others behind a large crate, he rested against the wall. There, he vomited, soaking the concrete below him.
He was sore, pathetic, and his throat and stomach nearly burned him alive, but he had shade between the grimy buildings, and for that, he was momentarily grateful.
After heaving, his mind returned to calm. Why does this keep happening? What's wrong with me? Despite all the doubts and worries the man harbored, he felt the most important thing was to trust in Torrin and trust that the worst may be behind him. He had nothing left to do; no strength to fight back, and no Keiran to pull him out.
Feeling well enough to stand, Garrick wiped off the spit from his face with a grungy sleeve and tried to remember the way back to the inn.
Torrin yawned while he waited. His body's misconception of time truly proved to be an issue. But every yawn only reminded him of the task at hand, and there was no time to waste on trying to keep up with a dying planet.
At last, the door opened. Sylas came in looking exactly as he left him, but with more fatigue around the features. His outfit was more casual than he might've preferred it, and his usual demeanor faltered a little while he entered the stylish room.
As soon as he laid eyes on his young visitor, however, his cool gave way. Sylas moved forward, as if trying to confirm an illusion away. "Torrin. You're… you came from the next town over?"
"Yes, me and Garrick both. You've heard your share of rumors here too, I see."
"Enough of them, yes. Two men appeared out of nowhere and ended up in our neighboring city. I figured you and Garrick would end up together. You're soul mates, after all. No matter how many times you're reborn, you will always find each other."
"Sylas, we'll be needing your help."
"And I'll be needing yours."
"What have you found out so far?"
"That the world will no doubt be nonexistent in the next few days. The way I understand it, Keiran's just bored with earth, and he's decided to kill it off slowly." Sylas felt strange using his name. It was like he was speaking about some distant someone that stole his heart away. "If this keeps up, I can't picture a happy ending for us. I've heard some people are looking to the sky technologies to get away from this, but even then, with the sun failing, there's not much they can do. Especially under the clock like this." Sylas folded his arms, changing subjects and going back to the task at hand, "Anyway, how's Garrick?"
Torrin frowned. "He's fine, but coming down mortal for him hasn't been easy. His mindreading is still intact, but he's also using more magic for the first time. He's been ill by it, though."
"We'll need him. It'll probably take all three of us to make a warp spell. Keiran's the only one who can conjure one on his own, but for us… we'll just have to hope it works."
Perfect image of determination, Torrin said, "How do we learn warp?"
"Warp can only be learned by one who has passed on and seen Runawynd. So, really, it's only us three and Keiran. But first, we need to break three seals. This will re-open the rift or gate from earth to Runawynd. And once you've got the spell, you can get to the rift. But it's up to Keiran whether or not to let you in."
"And where are the three seals?"
"That's where Garrick comes into play. He's the only one that can sense them here on earth."
Torrin stopped and thought for a moment, pieces of a shredded map slowly coming together in his mind. "Let's get Garrick."
Following the same cue, both men took for the doorway. Sylas opened the door for his friend, but on his way out, he added an unexpected light humor to the conversation, "He… let you inside here by yourself?"
"Ohh, no. I'm sure he was against it. But I thought better me than him, so." Torrin smiled big at Sylas, "But that still doesn't explain what you're doing here."
"First off, it's not what you think." Sylas had to heed his voice level as they passed a group of men, who noted Sylas' every move. "I'm here for the information, and it's not like I work here as a host. I ended up in this town after falling. A place like this you wouldn't mind being wiped off the face of the earth. But that decision isn't up to me, of course."
They made their way past the front desk, where a second group of men stood and talked anxiously amongst themselves while watching Sylas and Torrin exit. When one voice asked the doorman "How much for him", he was answered with, "He's not for sale and already taken." "Lucky little lad."
On their way down the streets, merely guessing where their inn was set, Sylas asked the question that had stuck to his mind since the beginning of their meeting, "Torrin, are you okay?"
Torrin looked up at him, but then back down towards the dirty streets. "I'm just tired, that's all. I've used two spells already… I guess I never had to deal with it before, but the more magic you use without replenishment, it hurts. I want to rest so badly, but I really don't think we can afford to."
Sylas understood. Uncharacteristically, he reached a hand out to pat Torrin on the head. "You spoil him sometimes."
"Torrin's in there, and I'm here, can't even get this damned food in my stomach, can't even- Arghh, I'm so freakin' pathetic!" Garrick complained, gesturing out all his lamentations to his patient listener, Cade, whose partner, Treyston, had just gone out to retrieve medicine.
"Aww, quit yer whinin', dolt. He'll be back soon, and health's most important-"
"Torrin's most important!" Garrick shouted back, to which, Cade only shrugged.
"'F you say so." With the manners of an impatient nurse, Cade worked at trying to make Garrick press a cold washcloth across his forehead. He also worked at adding more anesthetic treatment into bandaging Garrick's newly re-opened wounded arm. Neither man had a clue how such a wound – even after being healed by magic – managed to open itself again.
While Cade sat on his chair, soaking the cloth again, Garrick sat on his wooden stool, leaning forward and gripping onto his bad arm. Guiltily, Garrick took the sopping cloth, lowered his head towards his chest, and mumbled. "Thanks, Cade. Didn't mean to shout."
"I know ya didn't. Can't imagine what 'cha been through, 's all I'm sayin'. But I'm tellin' ya, he'll be fine in there. The place has a rep for taking good care of their customers. Why, him and your other friend 'r prolly having some nice wine with the rich boys, with better livin' circumstances than ours then, eh?" Cade laughed darkly, forcing Garrick to groan into his cloth.
The room was quiet. Cade was quiet, and Garrick took this opportunity to speak honestly with his acquaintance. "I'm just pathetic. I don't have any powers like him that I can control, and the skills I do have don't seem to have any meaning. I'm useless. And all I do is hold him back."
Cade furrowed his brows, not completely comprehending but sympathetic nonetheless. "Now seriously, mate, where you say you're from?"
"Runawynd. It's like heaven, I guess."
"Heaven." Cade repeated, grasping his palms tight to his legs and inclining back. "Fallen angels, then, huh?" Slowly, he nodded, "I wonder if it's good luck or somethin' that I met you."
"Or maybe it's fate?" Garrick suggested as he rolled his shoulders inward for a stretch.
"Heh, however you wanna justify it." Cade shrugged, pulling his hat off his blond head and tossing it onto the bed in the corner of the room. Garrick watched awkwardly as he rolled a hair tie from his wrist to tie his thin hair in a ponytail.
He seemed such a frail thing, but passionate and travel-worn just the same. His clothes and face were mussed with dirt because of his generous will to let Garrick bathe and dress first. But there was something in his eyes… a deceiving flame for such a small boy that evoked story.
Garrick had to ask. Besides, there seemed nothing to do but wait for Torrin to arrive. "Hey, so, why'd you decide to become a mercenary? Seems a pretty fearless profession for somebody on the run."
Cade looked over. "I don't know how much of it I've blabbed already- damn mouth of mine - but where I come from, this humble little town here – well, as you can well imagine, it's always one thing after another. Figured that by leavin', I could travel at least. See, I want to be airborne. I was over the clouds once. It was so beautiful, lookin' down at the clouds. I wasn't born here in this part of town, y' know; was shipped here, really, about a year ago. 'M scrapping together all my money of mercing so I can get a plane of me own. I always wanted to fly 'n go all the way up to heaven. I wish you'd tell me what it's like?"
Taken for a loop, Garrick blinked a few times, attempting words to place for Runawynd. "Oh, well, I'm not sure it's all it's cracked up to be."
"Does it have peace and quiet? Lots of food and a warm bed? Is there a window where you can keep an eye on all your loved ones, or is that just when you're a ghost?"
"No, it has all those things. I guess, really, it's my favorite place in the world- well."
"Sign me up, then. 'M glad to hear it, really." Cade allowed a smile to eke out while he looked down at his hands, toying with his thumbs as he spoke, "Guess I'm just a wayward refugee. 'M sick of land, sick of fightin'. I think that's why I chose this 'fearless profession.' For the travel, and Treyston's been good to me."
"But not as you'd like it to be?" Garrick added knowingly.
In return, Cade paused a moment. "What makes ya say so? If ya don't mind?"
"A familiar vibe." Garrick smiled; a sign of acceptance.
A similar smirk crossed Cade's features, "Hold up, mate, so you and Torrin…?"
"Wh- no, it's not like that at all! He's a brother to me."
"Well, I won't pry, then." The boy sat back in his chair, sinking in a deep sigh. "Ehh, but it's just my luck, right? The only guy I'd consider worth my time… but in all honesty, I can't see it happenin'. To him, seems like it's only strictly business, what we got." Suddenly, a pink hue overtook Cade's already rosy cheeks. "Between you and me, I been havin' these wet dreams 'bout him lately. Makes it kinda hard to face him the next day, if you catch my drift. Can still feel it down below-"
"Errr, yeeah, that's a little too much information for me." I mean, I'm glad he feels he can be open with me, but still…! At the thought, Garrick's face reddened a deeper color than Cade's.
"So, since you won't teach me how magic works, why not offer some advice?"
"Advice? I – well, it's definitely not my area of expertise." I'm sure Keiran would be much better at it than me. …I wonder what he'd say to this guy.
"I trust your judgment." Cade welcomed with confidence.
Where to begin? "So, er, can you tell if he might like you? Like, has he ever said anything randomly romantic to you, or called you –uh, endearing nicknames, or tried making physical contact with you against your will?"
"Ahaha!" After listening to Garrick's outrageous questions, Cade burst out laughing, "Hehe, why, does he seem the type to you? Hahaha! No, the bastard's barely spoke to me before we got to know each other. Barely speaks to me now!"
After Cade stopped his laughing, wiping at his eyes as he went, the room became quiet again – almost eerily so.
Luckily, before Garrick had a chance to prepare such a speech, Cade started up again. "See, I always figured that if I wanted somethin' and wanted it bad enough, I had to work hard to get there. I worked real hard just to get him to open up to me and be friends 'n such. Sometimes, I don't wanna just botch all that up by askin' 'im for more. Guess I'm a coward."
"Maybe you're just being practical."
"Love is anythin' but practical. Or logical. Or rational." Cade rambled, his typical brash appearance giving way to a more sensitive one, and Garrick's heart went out to the boy. "But 'm really hopin' for more. Y'know. Even if it seems impossible."
Garrick recalled Treyston's worry beforehand about not wanting him to return to this town that hurt him. "Well, I think your chances are pretty good. Do you think he knows about your feelings?"
"I s'pose he would. 'S not like I'm nice like that to just anyone, y' see."
Garrick bent his head over again, concentrating hard on a board laid across the floor. "What makes you like him all that much? I mean, if you worked all that hard at getting what you have, then why want to sacrifice the relationship you have with him now? To make way for something more… why?"
"You got your share of troubles, too, no doubt. Dunno. It's just dunno. But you know that feelin' when you're with that person and want to be with them so badly, you just want them to stay with you forever? When you want to know everythin' about him, even if it takes you a lifetime? I think it goes somethin' like that for me and Trey. I almost wish he'd just belong to me." Cade habitually brushed a strand of blond hair from his face, as he, too, avoided Garrick's eyes.
It took a moment for Garrick to gather his feelings and put them to words, "You remind me of him sometimes."
Cade looked up. "A man, huh? Then, you're like me…"
"I dunno if I'd say that." Garrick knew he had to tread carefully. The last thing he wanted was to dishearten his friend.
"'S rough, in'it? I just learned to be true to meself. You just gotta figure out who you really are and what you really want out of life, I figure."
"But what if I don't know what I want?"
"Jus' make sure you have an idea before you do anything stupid. 'N if you don't mind my sayin' so, thinking doesn't seem to be a strong point of yours, mate."
"Hey, watch it."
"So, what's your advice? For me and my situation?"
"I mean, if you found a guy that tolerated you for so long like this," Garrick ignored the similar but accented 'Hey, watch it' and said with a grin, "I'd say go for it. You never know until you try."
Eyes shining with renewed vigor, Cade planted both hands firmly on his knees, puffing out his chest with a determined breath, nodding as he went. "'S about time for change, anyway. I'll do it tonight, I think. I'll ask him to be my mate."
"Whoa now, don't come on too strong." Garrick stifled a laugh. "But don't be too subtle, 'cuz see how far that got ya with tall, dark, and handsome?"
"Well, what about your mate?" Cade asked at last, craning his neck to peer right into Garrick's eyes. "You speakin' somma these things from experience?"
Immediately, Garrick shied away, "No, no, he's not my mate, but he wants, or wanted us to be. I- well, ugg, I mean, this guy really… adds some meaning into my life." Garrick never had to put his relationship with Keiran into words, and it was baffling him all the while Cade's eyes prodded into his burning face. "Well, he's annoying. He's always on my mind, and I can't get him out, and sometimes, I wish he'd just go away."
"But now you're trying to get back to him." Dreamily, Cade rolled in his bottom lip into a round smirk, comfortably setting his chin on his palm. "He ever confess to you?"
"Never flat out."
"What was your response? You must've did somethin' really nasty to get kicked out of heaven."
"I didn't get a chance to say anything."
Their door opened.
Thinking it was Torrin, Garrick stopped short with Cade, but when he found Treyston walk through the door, he continued his thought, "I don't really know, all I know is that he pisses me off and I want to go back so I can freakin' kill him."
"I have your medicine." Stoic, graceful, Treyston greeted. He removed a small bottle from a sack he carried with him and handed it to Cade, who looked in rapture for a minute. But was it only Garrick that saw it?
"Thanks, Treyston." Cade said.
"Anytime. I hope you feel better soon." Treyston directed at Garrick.
Instead of choosing his first option, denial of illness, he chose his second option, make Cade look good. "Cade's been taking care of me. I think I'll be fine."
But all thoughts of Cade's love life vanished. Little Torrin had knocked, entered, and held the door open for Sylas, who lifted his eyes up to greet Garrick.
"S-Sylas!" Without bothering to contain his joy, Garrick jumped from his stool and over to Sylas; ready to embrace him. "Where the hell have you been?"
"Gathering information, as you have, I'm sure." Sylas looked warily at the two unacquainted mercenaries.
Garrick shook his head at Sylas' natural cynical gaze. "They're our leads."
"That's travelin' partners, thank you!" Cade spoke up, also jumping to his feet to greet the new guest. And if Garrick didn't know better, was that a grin of excitement he shot towards the ex-Diviner of Karma?
Sylas' eyebrows raised, clearly unhappy, but still willing, "All right, then, I hope I don't need to explain myself any further, seeing as though we're running out of time."
Leave it to Sylas to bring us sunshine and rainbows at the world's end. "I'm listening."
Finally. I got the phone reprogrammed and working well enough. I still can't get in touch with Keiran, but at least the GPS is on. It's incredibly lucky that they were able to find it while I brainstormed here.
Hmm, I see one seal here, but I don't see… the other two… They're gone? How could that…?
In that case, there's only one last barrier to break through, and then the portal. And the second seal is… in the neighboring town? Well, I'm not sure how thrilled the others will be to go back.
And I'm not sure how we'll figure out the warp spell, but we'll need it to get up there. He sure didn't make it easy on us. But it should be doable.
Might as well get to sleep like the rest of them. I'll share the news with Torrin and Garrick tomorrow morning, but now, I can barely think anymore.
That is, if the sun decides to rise tomorrow morning.
Garrick neglected to put a shirt on before entering his and Sylas' bed, despite his partners' unhappy, insisting look. The bothered man took that opportunity to joke, "If only Keiran could see you now, maybe he'd let it rain."
"…That's not funny." Garrick shoved his blanket up and over his head, hiding from peering eyes.
Sylas almost laughed at the reaction. "You know it's prone to rain when he's happy."
"Wait, really? Huh, all these things I never knew about Keiran."
An elongated, hollow coughing came from Torrin's bed, and both men were alerted away from their childish conversation.
Garrick sprung from his mattress, "Torrin? Torrin, are you all right? That cough sounds really nasty…" The worried man had little to no decency as he pulled the blanket away from Torrin's face.
In between shivers, Torrin nodded an okay, looking up at Garrick, but not facing him so that he could cough again. "Fine, I'm fine." He managed to choke out.
"I'll go get some water." Garrick said more fervently. After bolted around from the cabinets to the sink, he returned and quickly handed Torrin the drink of water.
After Torrin had control over his lungs once more, he assured they go back to sleep, to which, the men obeyed.
Garrick made sure Torrin was comfortable before he sprawled his way back into his and Sylas' bed – all the while, a strange, yet ignorable prickle grasped at his bad arm.
For a second, the two men lying side-by-side shared a look, and then returned to a less-than-peaceful slumber.
The three men talked, planned, and then walked together, following the GPS' instruction towards Garrick and Torrin's original lake house, where the final gate would be. The two mercenaries joined them, going by Cade's logic, "'M not stayin' here any longer than I have to, and our hovel isn't all that far off from there, so we'll go along with ya."
At first, Garrick noticed Sylas to be troubled with their travel mates - as he, too, had been - but it was interesting to see how he warmed up to the quiet Treyston.
Garrick had little time to think or worry about Sylas' social matters, however, as he focused his observation on each soft cough from Torrin. They made it past the forest and down the last hill when Torrin broke out in a sudden fit of erratic coughing. Everything aside, they stopped to help him.
But rather than last night, Garrick now understood. Sylas had told him the following morning about the dangerous usage of magic on earth. And how sometimes, the effects of utilizing it without Runawynd's rejuvenation would wear on the body.
All of it, he did… on my expense. Garrick regretted, attempting to hold up the frail, apologetic boy with one strong arm. Upon seeing the pathetic sight, Sylas reached over and took Torrin carefully until the coughing ceased.
Garrick wished to offer Torrin more water, but was unable to open the bottle all the way with only one arm. Treyston was first to lend a hand.
I would carry you the whole way, if I could, Torrin. Garrick felt no greater frustration than having a will that was held back by his body. His heart yearned, but his body was useless to aid his friend.
Ever since he woke that day, his arm had been void of feeling. It started with a soft tingling, which Garrick shook off and mistook as a result of bad sleeping position. But eventually, it became incurable. And though Sylas tried once before they left, his magic was no greater help than was Torrin's temporary cure. Perhaps he needed rejuvenation, as well?
"There's the house. Let's get 'im inside." Cade pointed out, volunteering to carry Sylas' belongings while Sylas took care of Torrin.
Surely, the small lakeside hut was just a short ways away. Each of the men did all they could to keep the sickly Torrin comfortable, but as soon as they made their way through the front door, the coughing started again – this time, hard and breathless. Torrin coughed so violently that they feared he would stop breathing.
But then, the coughing ceased.
Garrick froze, unknowing and helpless, while Sylas and Treyston brought him gently down onto the mattress and Cade went to the kitchen to brew a soothing remedy. Shortly, Treyston went after Cade to assist him.
Garrick stood motionless as Sylas prepared a healing spell that swept over the entire room with a pure, white energy that wrapped the boy and his throat in a delicate indulgence. After such a massive spell was cast, Sylas wavered from standing position for a moment, and then fell into a seat where he rested.
Cautiously, Garrick squatted down to talk to the bedridden, "Torrin? That was a nasty fit… We're here, so get some rest. Do you need anything? Some more water?"
Torrin opened his eyes, but then closed them. Garrick watched meticulously as he noticed Torrin bite his lip before propping himself up. Both men jumped up, readying to aid him, but it seemed the young one's strength returned. He sat up with no problems.
"I'm hungry." Torrin confessed quietly.
"I'll get it." Sylas volunteered, giving Garrick's inoperable arm one quick glance before rising from Torrin's bedside to exit the room.
"I'm sorry," Torrin said. "I'm holding us back."
Garrick shouted in denial, "No, no, no! It's not like that at all! God, if anyone's slowing us down, it's me. It's my fault that all this is…"
He stopped to watch Sylas enter the room holding bread and water. The apprehensive man set the food down on the table beside Torrin, and then handed him the water.
But Torrin did not respond to the gesture. He sat there, and apologized, "I'm so sorry."
"I'll put it here on the table, you can drink when you're ready."
Torrin perked his head, swallowed, then reached an aimless hand out to slowly grab out. For a minute it looked as if Sylas stopped breathing as he suddenly drew back, but why, Garrick couldn't yet be sure…
The cup was knocked over. Torrin gave a short jolt, as water spilled onto the floors and across his lap. "I-I'm so sorry." He repeated again, nervously.
Garrick knew. He stood frozen, an unendurable knot gathering together in his throat. "Torrin."
"I didn't want to scare you…" His voice was so meek, so quiet, unsure, and scared. His hands went to his blinded eyes, where he rubbed at them and covered up a shamed look overcoming his face.
While Sylas tried to think of a cure or way around it, Garrick took a breath, calmed his head, and hoped to block out all his fears before he spoke. He took a seat beside Torrin, who instinctively searched to hold his hand, but grabbed Garrick's unfeeling one on accident. Garrick cupped Torrin's cold fingers with his one strong hand. "Don't worry, Torrin. We'll be back soon, and Keiran will help you. Hang in there 'til then. I've got this."
Torrin began trembling as soon as Garrick spoke. "Okay," he managed.
Surely, it was Torrin's strength and optimism that kept everyone together and on task. He was the peacekeeper and had been aiding Garrick and supporting them all unconditionally. Perhaps they had taken his strength for granted; only truly realizing his role until he could not see anymore. But it was now time that Torrin took a break. Mortality proved less than accommodating.
Sylas sat on Torrin's other side to wrap an arm around his slender shoulders, leaning over to grab the food from the table and give it to him. To Garrick, he gave the next order, "I'll stay. Go find the last seal."
He was nothing but a broken record, wandering and being spun around aimlessly. Garrick strived for sanity and peace of mind, but there was only disarray and pain around him. The more and more time he spent trying to get closer to his objective, the farther and father he seemed to meander away. There was no more time left, and his limits had been reached. He felt like half a man with only one arm, and now, Torrin…
Intently, Garrick stared at blue orb on his mistrusting machinery. "The gate should be right here. Goddamnit, I'm standing right on freakin' top of it!"
But there was nothing; only the quiet lull of rolling waves and a few soft voices in the distance of his cabin. There was sand, salt, and a black sky that showed no signs of ever waking. It was detrimental, but Garrick still found a mysterious beauty in all that surrounded him. He came to that realization long ago, when he first started working for Keiran in Runawynd. By nature, Garrick had an accepting conduct towards the human race; but one such genuine trust, he also learned, could prove weakness.
Despite everything, however, he could not help but love the earth and secretly become intrigued by the world that Keiran created. To him, it was beautiful, and there would always be good, if ever one wanted to open their eyes and look for it.
He began to speak to a listener that wasn't there. Everything he held inside, he let open freely. "You know what, Keiran? I'm good for nothing. I can't do anything to help him, and that really pisses me off. And what really pisses me off is that you can do something, but you won't. How is that fair?"
"I know what you'd say at a time like this. You'd make some kind of lesson out of it and say, 'Well, life's not fair. There is no such thing as justice anymore, Garrick.' Well, I know it's not fair. I already know it."
"But let me ask you this, Keiran. Do you think earth is really all that bad? I mean, there's fighting, there's injustice and trouble… But how could you create a world and just go 'n abandon it? You don't care anymore? The fuck's wrong with you?!" Now shouting, Garrick spilled out every little tamper that vexed him.
"I know it's not all perfect! I know there are people out there that we'd all be better off without, but what about the ones who still care? There is some good out there! We can't just quit because of the darkness out there! We need to continue being the light, the guardian angels for people, because that's my job! I want to help it, Keiran! Even if you don't care anymore!"
It was then that a miracle occurred. A miracle that only Garrick was able to verify and describe. An unnatural breeze had embraced him. As he looked out towards the still waters, the breeze had come from behind him, and it caressed his body, starting with his listless arm. Had someone been watching? Though all around him was lifeless, hot, and dark, Garrick's entire body shook from the relishing sensation. He remembered this touch, and the thought embarrassed him.
Tears threatened his eyes. "I always thought… that nothing would ever change. Always thought I'd just be spending the rest of my days up there with you. Like it was some sick, sad fate of mine." While he talked, the tears fell to the corners of his mouth; he only wiped them away once he tasted the salt. Trembling, his mouth curved bitterly as he said, "And I could've gotten used to it, actually."
"But I never imagined when I'd have to make a decision like that… t-to ever have to say yes or no to you… Kinda makes me think that I was wrong, making you wait… Makes me feel like it's all my fault for everything happening. I'm so useless, and Torrin- It's my fault for him, too. Being mortal scares me. If we die, there's no more coming back, is there? Not like last time. But if Torrin were to –my life would just be over."
Garrick lifted his face up to the stars, trying to get a glimpse of his listener. "You'll cure him when we get back. I know we'll get there. And I hope you're fuckin' happy. 'Cuz here we are, tryin' to get back to you, and you probably don't even care."
Swallowing hard over and over until his voice returned, Garrick lowered his head, remorseful. "I hate you. It's impossible for me not to think of you, and I swear to god, it makes me sick. I want to go home to you. Even if you've given up on me and Torrin and Sylas. I'm not going to just abandon you like you've done."
Garrick's stomach gave a familiar, revolting lurch. He braced himself this time and attempted to lower himself to the ground, but ended up rolling over in the sand as his hand gave way. Upset, he sloppily hobbled upwards, but stopped all movement when he heard a single, distant voice travel through his mind.
'I'm done. I'm tired. I give up. There's nothing more I can do. I can't watch them anymore. I can't protect them or keep them safe. They can do as they choose. I'm done.'
What? He's giving up?
'I'll sleep. Sleep forever. I give up. There is nothing he can do to change this.'
"You're wrong-!" But Garrick had been cut from his argument, and he bent over to puke in the sand. As soon as he did so, the voice in his head ceased, as it had done similarly before. The final seal had been broken from inside him.
Do you not realize what's going on here? Garrick tried to communicate.
In a flutter of unknown magic, a flash of strange, blue light swirled within the deep waters, starting from the bottom of the lake and worked its way up, where it ascended into the sky.
Garrick had been recuperating, breathing hard and dry and wiping the grimy sand from his face, but he watched it soar. If it had been an object, he couldn't be sure; it was just a blinding, aqua light. He had never seen anything like it before, but something about it felt familiar.
He rose to his feet. Then a bizarre realization flew in to ignite whatever hope remained in Garrick's heart. Was that the last seal? Was the rift opened?
Looking for the GPS, he scanned the beach until he had it in its hands, with results that confirmed his wish. When he looked up from the device, that blue light took from the clouds – white glittering tail following behind it - where it shot down like a botched firework. It headed for him. Garrick thought to run, but it had already come down and gently burst in a poof of blue and white shimmer.
He had to adjust his eyes to such brightness, but after squeezing out the last few uncertainties, he could see it was a portal. A warp.
Garrick stood, eyeing the doorway a moment. He reached an inquisitive hand out to it, but was seared by a defensive light that made him jump backwards.
As he went through a mental recap, Garrick whirled around and thought to return to his house. But no, he couldn't ask for their help. He couldn't bear to think of what would happen if he asked Torrin to help him with magic one more time…
But the moment he turned around to face the locked door, he heard Sylas calling him from behind, "Garrick! Garrick, wait!"
Garrick called back, "I got this! You take care of Torrin!"
Stomping footsteps ran towards him, and he was decisively smacked on the back of the head by the Karma Diviner, Sylas, who readied himself for a spell. "Cade and Treyston will take care of him. I saw the light. Can't believe you found it. Now do as I say." He added forcefully.
He did as Sylas instructed. He stopped. He quieted his mind, or attempted to until he could hear no further voices, save the soft humming of the portal before him. He set up his hand in front of him, and concentrated his energy for a spell. As he learned, concentration of one's inner energy meant his thoughts, emotions, and even physical being.
Once the connection with their inner energy became strengthened, there came a whisking flight of what felt like a powerful wind that nearly knocked their breath away, while it tore around their skin. The magical current that Sylas and Garrick conjured did its damage by first constricting and tightening their skin. It crawled around their arms, legs, and neck, nearly tattering the little clothing they were wearing.
Garrick fought harder to meet with that man he knew by the window. But the harder the concentration, the harder the magic became erratic and soon, it slashed away into their flesh. The constriction became unbearable while pressed deeper until it split skin and drew blood. Garrick tightened so hard – trying to ignore the cuts and burns - that he choked on his hitched breath. He winced once he felt a gash open on his leg, and he dropped on one knee.
From the ground, Garrick still held fast to the spell Sylas was teaching him. After maintaining a well-enough grip on his magic, he looked over at Sylas, who stood focused with torn clothing and blood dripping from the side of his mouth. Fresh, red blood littered his face like shiny paint against a pale wall. He struggled. 'We need to keep going.'
At last, Garrick could see a brief flicker at the doorway. The blue light became hinted with gold, and the doors opened slowly. As soon as Sylas gave the okay to stop, he collapsed in the sand.
Muddled and exhausted, Garrick shuffled over to Sylas, who was still breathing and slowly hoisting himself up. Garrick carefully sat him up, "Sylas, let's go. The door's open, we can go now."
But Sylas shoved the offering hand off, shaking his head, "Only one can get through." He mustered, smiling slightly at his discouraged partner.
There was nothing more to say. How could Garrick argue? Of course, their magic was limited compared to Keiran's, but this was the best they could do. He put a hand to Sylas' shoulder, and Sylas hissed in pain, breathing and hitching scattered. Garrick's hand apologetically retreated, but before he would leave, he made sure Sylas was well enough to stand.
After exchanging one look of assurance and determination, Garrick stood. He approached the doorway to Runawynd and stepped through. He was unable to maintain consciousness as the light force drove him back up home.
He was almost there. Garrick had traveled through the rift, but he landed and awoke in a place that was unfamiliar to him, but at the same time, he knew it as home.
It was a dying garden, and Garrick lie in the center of it. He stirred a moment, hazy eyes becoming accustomed to the location. It was the garden of Runawynd. To the left, there was Sylas' tea garden, and before him was the massive bench and fountain situated in the middle. He knew it well, though he spent little of his time there.
But his sweet memories of the flowing, gorgeous garden contradicted what he beheld now. The flowers and plants had been killed, the water stopped flowing, and everything was dark and cold. Was this place truly one and the same?
While he climbed up to his feet, Garrick was reminded of pain as it coursed through his body. He ignored the infliction and heavily moved on through the wisteria-covered lattice entryway; making his way towards the house of Runawynd.
Is it just nighttime in Runawynd? Or, no. It's not. Confidence turned to caution once he opened the door. Everything was the reverse of his remembrance, and an eerie emptiness surrounded him. He wasn't home yet. He was in-between. It was lifeless, and the cold chilled into his core. I need to find Keiran's room.
The echoing silence became insufferable. His leaden legs and callused feet took him down the hallway, where he soon had to press his hand against the walls to help him. With every footstep and every sound he made under his breath, the halls seemed to talk back in a ghostly manner.
When he at last arrived at Keiran's doorway, Garrick turned to look down each side of the hall. What he was expecting to see, he couldn't be sure, but the seemingly never-ending darkness on either side did little to keep his sanity intact.
He opened the door at last. It was empty. Nothing but a well-made bed and an opened window adorned with a simple shade that swayed in the little breeze.
There was no one there, but through the silence, there came a voice, "Many people pass through this place." It told him softly. "Some stay longer than others. Some people are ready, but some stay until they've finished a special something. If those people have that special something and can prove themselves, I can give them the chance to return formless. But all the people who come here have no body or senses as you have. What makes you so special?"
Garrick did not answer immediately. The voice was not Keiran's, but something about it rang a bell in the back of Garrick's mind… It was so calm. Garrick knew little of who he was dealing with, and so he heedfully gave his response, "I don't want to return to earth. My unfinished business is up there. I have no other reason to stay."
"Oh yes, that's right. You're his… I know of you and the things you've done. You seem to be in his good graces, but it's a pity your warp spell only brought you half-way."
"I made it this far. I did what I to to get here. Let me through." The steadfast Garrick continued, "Earth doesn't have long. He'll have it all destroyed when he doesn't even realize it! I need to stop him!"
"You intend to defy him?"
"I intend to help him. Let me through, he'll open the door for me."
"Diviner of Fate, if you truly desire to return to him, your home, then who am I to stop you?" The calm voice said at last, fading off into the air around him.
A spell had been cast; by whom, Garrick was left unaware. The breeze twirled around him, becoming a gentle mist of gold and blue. Out of the glimmering haze, a doorway formed. Garrick entered.
Wait? I'm back where I started? This is still in-between, it's so dark, but- No, this is Keiran's room. I'm here, I finally-
The pause Garrick made to help catch his breath gave him just enough time to stop and think. He looked around the quaint room, recalling everything as he remembered it. But Keiran had gone from his former spot on the bed. Surely, he still wouldn't be there after all that time…?
Drowsily, Garrick made way for the door. He had to find Keiran and wake him. If he could only meet with him to open a portal for Sylas and Torrin, then maybe they would have a chance. Maybe then, things would change. He didn't know how it would happen, but he knew it had to.
His feet carried him further, beyond the quiet hallways and out the door. It made no sense. He was never able to see his own fate, and of course, while he remained on earth, his fate-divining powers were obsolete. But he gave up trying to think and relied on his tired feet to take him there.
Garrick went out to the garden. It looked as exhausted as the man felt, but at least there were signs of life that could be reborn. He passed through the wisteria-covered lattice, and once he turned the corner, he saw, resting on top of the garden bench, a strange, white mass.
As slow and robotic as breaking clockwork, Garrick approached the form. He hovered over it a moment, controlling his breath, but then noticed red splotches around it. He then reached out to touch it. Like silk. A cocoon? Encasing…?
He found him.
With the adrenaline of realization, Garrick started to peel off the first few layers. The wispy threads were so astoundingly tight that he had to work harder. He peeled and tore and broke away at the chains and bonds – threads that Keiran himself had spun to hide away.
The deeper he dug, the more there seemed to be. The harder he tore, the harder it seemed to stick to his skin. He was so close that he started to yell, voice nearly giving way with strain. "Keiran! Keiran, wake up!" Unknowingly, as each piece was torn away, it floated off and emerged like a painted cloud in the sky, rebuilding itself as an impending storm.
The bonds had been done away with when Garrick found himself staring into the face of his sleeping master. His mind soared but was put into shambles at the same time. He couldn't understand what he was supposed to feel. Everything felt surreal and unsure. But something about that face – pale and clean as it slept peacefully – made Garrick feel he was finally home.
He wiped some silk from his eyes. Then, pulling all his strength together and focusing it in a fist, Garrick pulled his knuckles back then into the side of Keiran's face. Not that his power amounted to much; it barely even left a bruise.
A cough or a laugh, Garrick couldn't be sure. A wide and tired smirk stretched across Keiran's face as he opened his eyes at last. "H-Hello, Garrick. B-Business or pleasure?" His smile was phony, his speech was forced. He could barely look his subordinate in the eyes.
And yet, they established a familiar moment between them – a moment that both men almost forgotten. Everything Garrick planned had vanished. He understood the urgency of things and knew well he had limited time. But when he was with him, in that moment, it seemed like time had stopped and waited until Garrick gave his long-awaited answer.
As Garrick's insides turned, he let his mouth run free, "I should hate you for abandoning us."
Keiran said nothing. Just as he started to hoist himself up, Garrick stopped him.
This time, the Diviner of Fate chose not to let that familiar moment go. "But I can't. 'Cuz you're just a guy like me with the weight of the world on your shoulders." Forgiveness.
Lips touched softly, reluctantly at first. Fear, anger, and excitement played with Garrick's mind as his lips delicately occupied Keiran's own. But the moment he released himself from fear and doubt was the moment change took hold over him. His initial shyness bred new sensations as his body gave into instinct and his head fell prey to a mind-numbing relief and overwhelming compassion for the man that ever-plagued his mind.
Willingness met with uncertainty from the other, however, and Keiran pulled himself away; an uncharacteristic heat rising to his face. He put a questioning hand up to Garrick's pounding bosom, seeping into his core of emotion, as if carefully double-checking his sincerity. Could he have it? But how could Garrick judge Keiran's deserving of his heart?
Slowly, Garrick was beginning to feel comfortable with the man he held in his arms. He pressed his body closer to Keiran as their lips rejoined, breath and warmth forming a unison of unkempt hope and passion that drove them both to mutual desire. They were together.
Scared and unsure, the men parted. Garrick pressed their foreheads together gently, resolving in a shared smile.
Garrick hadn't noticed the storm begin to form. Rain spattered down over them; cold, yet refreshing. The coolness melted deep into his aching, heated flesh, which nearly stuck against Keiran's, dense with rain. Blinding multicolored streaks of lightning lit up among the darkened clouds, tearing across the sky while loud bursts of thunder quaked. Like a show of fireworks.
This time, it was Garrick that held onto Keiran and spoke kindly to him. "You're just a guy. You can't do all this alone, so I guess I'll just stay with you. Guess it's for the good of the world anyway if I do. You're learning from your mistakes, too. You're just as human as the rest of us. And I… we all love you, Keiran."
Keiran just listened. Perhaps he knew what he had done. Perhaps he wanted to end everything quietly. Perhaps he wanted a rest so badly that he forgot about the toll that earth would be left uncalled for. The man smiled weakly, his gaze drifting down until he settled in the solace of Garrick's shoulder, where he tenderly allowed himself to lose composure and sink into him.
A knowing gold and light-blue matter formed from behind them. Garrick knew the others would arrive soon, and so he took that one last second to bring Keiran up to his feet and support him.