In a country where those who were already corpses were considered lucky, and those who had abandoned hope and left their own homeland were considered brave, it was usual to wake up every morning wishing to escape from the daily routine. The land of Sterilis was considered a dead country, so dead that it was possible to sense the numbness of each and every citizen, to feel the eternal nothingness spread across the barren lands.

Even those who were living were practically indistinguishable from the deadened bodies buried underground themselves. Both had the same sickly appearances and amount of willpower, the only difference that those who were alive had to continue to work of inhaling and exhaling while the dead were relieved of that burden long ago.

There was nothing.

Nothing to see across the endless fields of rock and sand. Nothing to listen to but the perished winds and ghosts of extinct animals once thriving in the green grass and warming sunlight. Nothing to taste except a lack of saliva and salty blood from chapped lips. Nothing to smell but the horribly dry air, burning the insides of nostrils and devouring the savored water of the country. Nothing to touch, but every once in awhile, one would blindly stumble across the warmth of another, the sense that others existed in this empty country.

In Sterilis, the only thing that was something was the ghost of its own past, before the bombing and before the hope was sucked right out of the people themselves.

But every once in awhile, somebody would stir. Every once in awhile, there would be somebody to feel again, to remember that living was not something difficult to do at all. There were few, but they still existed, even in planet with everything turned against them, in a country where most people lived always half-awake, half-still moving aimlessly through an endless dream.

Solaine Griffin swore she could hear the silence. Closing the front door of her house behind her with a quiet creak, the girl nearly wished to scream, just to make noise for once. She resisted the urge, and turned to face the shabby looking forest in only a couple-hundred feet away from her own house. The sunlight began to break through the night time sky as the teenager peered across her parent's farmland.

Over the sad looking potato crops her father unsuccessfully was trying to grow, over the brown grass plains, and over the rows of rock cairns which she herself had built, Solaine spotted Lily napping in the thin bunch of trees. The black panther was stretched out lazily on his back, his rib cages jutting out from the cat's scrawny stomach. Solaine frowned, knowing the panther had probably found nothing to eat. Like the night before, and the night before that, and so on. There was only so much she could do to feed her wildcat, she knew it was hard enough on her family just to provide food for themselves.

It wasn't that the Griffins were poor. Those in poverty usually lived in the streets, struggling to gain a single crumb over the course of one day. They died eventually, their existences wiped forever from the face of Phoenicia. They always did.

But even the wealthy of Phoenicia didn't live comfortably. It was impossible to live an easy life in a country that received only the leftovers of the world, that only flourished off of stolen goods and plundered objects. Everyone struggled in the end.

All that mattered was that the lack of money in the country made Lily dangerously thin. Solaine hated to see her own companion, protector, and friend slowly starve to death, much less knowing that Lily really could be the last of his kind. As far as she knew, Lily was the only wildcat south of Valle Mortis, maybe the last of the entire country itself if things had gotten worse in the north.

Slowly, she approached the napping cat. One yellow eye opened to peek at the girl, searching for any sort of food within her hands. Kneeling down next to his outstretched belly, she she scratched his tummy and whispered to him.

"Sorry, bud. Looks like today isn't gonna be your day." Lily huffed and rolled over, backside facing Solaine. She tied her dark brown hair up into a ponytail as she smiled at the silly cat. Nudging him with a gentle push, Solaine was about to stand up when-

A growl. Lily was on his feet in an instant, ears pricked forwards and teeth bared. Not at her, but at a dark figure crouched in the distant trees. From what she could see, its head was huge, with hair sticking out nearly in every direction. Could it be...?

The figure reared up on its two hind legs, and gave a ferocious roar that chilled Solaine to the bone, that probably woke up sleeping citizens miles around, and sent Lily charging wildly in its direction. A lion. It had to be.

"Lily, no!" Solaine rushed after her scrawny little black panther, knowing it was no match for something as mighty as a lion. A lion! A lion was in her backyard, only a short distance away from her. Solaine was both terrified and honored at the same time.

Unfortunately, Solaine's slightly chubby human legs were no match to Lily's long, lithe running legs. In a matter of seconds, Lily had already reached the lion, and the two sprinted off in a chaotic flurry of fur and claws. Solaine slowed down to catch her breath. Her mud colored eyes closed, trying to pull together her thoughts.

Wait a moment. Solaine wasn't brave. As far as she had known, she shrieked even at the sight of a barking dog. Her forehead scrunching, she wondered why the fear of chasing a god damn lion hadn't kicked in yet. Her gathering thoughts were quickly interrupted when she heard the awful yelp of a cat off in the distance.

"I'm coming, Lily!" Pushing her thoughts aside before she could remember to be terrified, Solaine pushed through the cramps forming in her stomach and sprinted towards the noises.

The thin, dead looking trees were nearly invisible as she ran through them, and proved quite hard for her to avoid. An idea sparked in her head, and Solaine kicked off her flimsy sandals. Her feet connected with the ground, felt every brown leaf and grain of dirt and inch of rock below. Every step she took showed her the area, giving her better insight to the forest than her own two eyes ever could manage.

The pros of being a Sterilin. Every person born under the watch of the earth god, Aion, was granted a certain amount of earth magic within their cores. Some with the potential to do great things in the future were given a considerable amount of magic power by the god, but it seemed that in modern times, nobody in Sterilis was born with the potential to do anything at all. Powerful magic was a rare thing to see in Sterilis, and was even feared by most nowadays.

Solaine didn't consider it very much, but after strenuous work day after day, she had slowly begun to learn the ways of earth magic. Her earth magic skill wasn't half as good as her skills with the sword, but it did allow her to become connected to her surroundings, merely an extension of the ground itself when she focused hard enough.

Bare skin touching the cold dirt and hardened ground, Solaine knew she could close her eyes and let the feet do the seeing for her, if she was brave enough. She weaved in and out of the trees, feet flying high and breaths coming in short, staggered pants. For a moment, she forgot about her problems, about the current situation, about her short breaths becoming more and more painful, and flew. For a moment.

And then Lily yelped. A heart-wrenching, heart-stopping yelp that told Solaine something had gone wrong. Only a short distance away from her, she could see Lily lying next to a tree, the lion sitting proudly next to it. Admiring its work.

Solaine stopped, sensing the ground with her feet. Something warm, and fluid-like coated the ground near the two cats...

No. Solaine didn't have many people she considered family in her life. Heck, she didn't consider many people friends, as it was hard for her to keep them. Most left her after they got to know her well enough: her awkward conversational skills, her bizarre jokes, her tomboyish attitude. Truth be told, Solaine had a hard time with people in general, even though she had worked seemingly her whole life to "fix" herself for others.

To take away the one being that loved Solaine for who she truly was, whether it be human or not, was unacceptable. She felt her eye twitch when she saw the red pooling underneath the cat, she felt her fingernails dig into her skin when she saw the shallow breathing of the black cat. Screw her tiredness, screw the fact that she had no idea where she was, screw the silence everybody expected of her, screw the proud look on the lion's face. Her entire body was shaking as an enormous amount of energy swelled within her...

The ground began to shake. First a slight tremor, which turned into a vibrant buzz. The ground was ready for an attack. Pleading for her to utter the simple magic words, begging to destroy the entire forest, maybe even the entire city of Tellus, too, if she would simply allow it to. All Solaine had to do was speak the words, the prayer to her source of magic...

Deep inside herself, she found them within the love for her dying Lily. "Orationem ad Aion: Terraemotus!" She screamed, half-possessed by her own magical energy bursting out from within.

An earthquake it was. Trees were ripped from their roots as solid ground broke into pieces. The earthquake was growing, bigger and bigger... Moving straight towards the lion and Lily. Solaine blinked, as she realized the destruction was now completely uncontrollable. It would kill the both of them, she would kill Lily with her own uncontrollable magic.

"Lily!" Solaine cried out. Stomping her feet, she tried to undo the earthquake growing quickly towards him. The panther wasn't about to move, and strangely enough, it looked as if the lion wasn't, either. It sat, as still as a statue, still looking as proud as ever. Solaine never knew lions could be such idiotic creatures.

The lion looked at her, and smiled. Smiled, grinning ear to ear, it's huge fangs baring out as if it was having the best time of its life. As if the lion was laughing at her. One stamp on the ground from one of its paws, and the ground-devouring earthquake froze in its tracks, only a few feet away from the duo of cats.

Solaine could do nothing but rub her eyes and hang her mouth wide open. Solaine was simply incredulous, both at the grinning lion and the magical feats she had preformed all by herself. A lion smiling! Of all things she had heard of, never before...

The golden-maned cat gave her a smirk, if that was even possible, and then turned around to trot off in the distance. Deciding between following the mysterious lion's path and aiding her dying panther caused Solaine a moment of hesitation, but Solaine quickly chose the latter in an instant after sensing the warm liquid on the ground once again.

Her dark ponytail almost completely fallen out due to the unusual amount of running, she reflexively tightened it as Solaine ran to her pet's aid. Lily's breathing was so slow, his heart beat moving at only half the speed as usual (which she had also felt through the ground). He didn't have much time left.

After reaching the black cat, Solaine found that she was in for quite the shock. No cuts were left upon the panther at all, he was merely... sleeping! That incredible lion must have done that too, she thought. But what of the blood spattered on the floor?

The red liquid beside him began to glow as she curiously touched it, wondering if it was even blood at all. A bright, yellow light encased Solaine, momentarily blinding her. When the light had vanished after what seemed like barely even a fraction of a second, the glowing liquid had vanished.

In it's place lied a long, green-tinted sword. It looked to be made out of stone. As she picked it up, a few ancient runes were found on both sides of the weapon. Gladium Aion, formavit in cor. Solum fortissimi ut tangere, aut faciem incredibile fata ...

She read aloud. "The sword of Aion, formed in the heart. Only the strongest may touch, or else face incredible doom..."

She swore she could hear something new in the air, something incredibly loud, as her fate was settled by the touch of a sword, as her destiny began to quietly change right before her very eyes...

She had another odd urge to scream, but it was too late. The silence had already been broken.

*Rushed. Read. Review. Enjoy. :) Solaine is from Simbeswore, a great submitter! Don't freak out that a guy panther has a feminine name like Lily, there is a back story to it that will be revealed later on. And to anybody new reading, check out my first story, Phoenicia: The Adventure Begins to better understand the world of Phoenicia. Also submit to ThePersonWhoWrites and MeAreWinner's SYOCs, they need characters! Alijah's character introduction shall be up next (most likely).*