The young man sat by the edge of a small creek, examining his favorite sword. On any other day, children would be swimming here, boys would be playing war games. Today, however, was different. He was the only soul in sight; everyone else was at the Meeting Ground for the festivities.
He knew eventually someone would notice he had left, and someone else would be sent to find him. Because what good's a party without the guest of honor?
But for now, he had time. Maybe it would only be a few minutes by himself, though lately he considered that a luxury. He had added two more training hours each day in the rec field. It took a toll on his energy, but he knew it would ultimately pay off.
He traced the blessed blade in the dirt, absentmindedly creating battle strategies as moonlight was reflected back at him. War was what he lived and breathed. It was coming soon, very soon. It was a faint whisper that promised revenge over the person who made him what he was. It was what fueled his everlasting fury, decade after decade.
Of course, he could never try anything against the Evil One. The Dark creature had unimaginable power, such as that to change reality. Over the years, many favors had been asked of him. He couldn't say no, no matter how hard he tried to fight against the magic compelling his will. That was just the thing, it was never about his will. It was entirely the opposite.
"Michael!" The laughing, joyful voice was one he knew instantly. Interrupted from his thoughts, he stood up and turned around.
He couldn't help but smile. Though he had never let himself get too close to anyone, Celeste was his one of his favorite Dawnians, and they were very good friends. She even looked like him, with her curly golden hair and angular features. The People of the Dawn did tend to share the same physical attributes, so it really wasn't much of a coincidence.
She strolled over to him and looped her arm through his. "Walk with me."
So together they entered the edge of the forest and followed the long trail that led to the settlement. For a short time, they were silent.
"Not in the celebration mood?" she asked faintly.
He shook his head. "I'm just not a happy person in general."
She rolled her eyes. "Come on. It's your birthday, Michael. You only turn 110 once!"
He snorted. "Gee, I feel so old."
She shrugged. "So you are. You really should cherish your birthdays, though." Her face grew solemn. "You know, pretty soon I won't be here anymore. But you will be, and maybe you will stroll through the forest on your 190th birthday with my great granddaughter."
Now it was his turn to roll his eyes. "Celeste, please. Cut the dramatics."
She looked up at him. "I'm not being dramatic! We all know about what...happened to you and everything. We're really grateful you decided to live with our kind and help and all. Michael, you're immortal, and the rest of us aren't."
He frowned. "The blood that runs in my veins is that of your people. I belong to the Dawn. Do you think I want to be nineteen for all eternity?"
"Of course not. I think you want to go back to 1922 and grow up with your family and die like you should have." She sighed. "I know that you want that. And I know somehow you became one of us, but you're different."
"Different as in otherworldly handsome or different as in the whole not aging thing?" She gave him a steely look that said she wasn't kidding and he said, "Okay, different as in the latter. What's your point?"
"My point is that I'm going to grow up and die and you won't. My family, the whole settlement really, will be dust in the ground and you will be here still. So maybe instead of pouting like you always do you could be thankful you've been given time."
He laughed bitterly. "I believe I've had enough time."
She exhaled again. Fighting with him was pointless. "Just try to be pleasant, okay? Everyone loves you even when you're being an ass, but they worked really hard on the party and you should indulge them."
The trail ended at the huge clearing known as the Meeting Ground. The oversized gazebo at its center was filled with tables of Dawnians, dressed in their finest and laughing and eating and celebrating Michael's life. Decorations of braided flowers and wild weeds were hanging from every tree. Twinkling lights were strung around everything in sight, giving the Meeting Ground a glow of warmth and magic.
"Look who I found!" Celeste called out, her amorphous eyes flashing the colors of rainbows in her happiness. "Let the revelry begin!"
And so it did. He was seated at the head on the longest table and was served several courses of the best foods. Despite his ever-present misery he found himself talking and grinning and laughing. The sun wine that was custom to the Dawnians tasted sweeter on his lips than usual, and he soon found he didn't have to put up an act; he was genuinely having a good time.
When the meal ended, the dancing began. It started with the children, singing along to the upbeat music and twirling around like spinning tops in the grassy clearing. Michael suddenly found himself on his feet, stepping in time to the first song he had danced to when his blood was changed.
Memories came flooding back. Bitterness. Betrayal. Most of all, an aching loneliness rooted so deep in his chest it could have blossomed like an ugly flower. He had just become something new; he was finally apart of something. He was a child of the Dawn. Then he learned, because of what had happened to him, he was still different. He would be an outsider among the people he claimed as his own. All Dawnians, despite their gifts and utter separateness from mortals, grew old and died at about the same rate as the other were not immortal.
Michael's case was rare. He was the only Dawnian to be born a human. He was the only one who was almost made into another creature entirely, before becoming one of them. He would never grow old. It was the cross he had to bare.
The first revelry he attended celebrated his rebirth. It was eighty-one years ago, but he saw the pictures in his head as real and vibrantly as he saw the girl he was presently dancing with. It was the song he was dancing now that reminded him of how alone he always would be.
Sun wine was a peculiar substance. It made the drinker seek happiness and pleasure. Michael knew he was under its influence, but he was actually most grateful. After all, it was his 110th birthday. Celeste was right, he should be enjoying himself. After serving the Dawians as Head of Military for over eight decades, he deserved to let himself fully appreciate their parties.
One way or another, he was soon dancing with a beautiful girl with raven hair. He blood red lips were drawn into a pout. The edges of his vision were blurring, probably because of the wine, but he saw her angelic face so clearly.
She leaned into him, and something felt wrong. His thoughts were scattered, and he couldn't place the shaken feeling, but something wasn't right. She smelled like sin and the sweetness of greenery. She put her lips to his ear and spoke softly.
"Happy birthday, Michael. I hate to bother you, but I need a favor."
His blood ran cold. It was her. The Evil One.