Prologue

Rook sat bolt up in bed. She was awake. He had waited nearly 20 years since he first felt her return to this world, and now, suddenly, she was finally awake.

He wanted to fly from his bed immediately, to take to the skies and search for the beacon that would be her fractured mind, but he settled himself back into the tangle of sheets and bodies and willed himself to be still. She was awake, but she was still just a mortal human girl, and drawing attention to her now would only put her in danger. Still, he was unable to return to sleep, so as he lay back, he let himself imagine all the possibilities of her new form.

In the past, she had been short, tall, dark, fair, blonde, brunette, red-head, all number of combinations, but he'd known her each time just the same. How could he forget what was once a part of his soul?

"Maybe this time I'll even find her before anyone else," he mused, smile playing at his lips. Ever the optimist. No wonder he'd been kicked out of The Black Legion.

Chapter 1

Brooke got up and went to school that morning, like she did every morning, and like she would do every morning for this very last school year. Her mother was in bed, or wasn't even actually home, like she was every morning, though for whatever stupid reason, at the start of every school year, Brooke always hoped to see her in the kitchen, just once, making breakfast and ready to see her off. She sighed and poured a glass of orange juice once she'd popped a waffle in the toaster and sipped at it absently. Her thoughts were on nothing, a shapeless void as she stared at the dial on the toaster.

Then suddenly, his thoughts were on the dive the economy had taken, and how business had just dried up, and there hadn't seem liked there was any other choice but to jump, really. The wind on his face had felt so good, like when he used to go sailing on the Lakes with his uncle and –

Brooke jumped at the popping toaster, startled by her own reflection. It had seemed so real, the feelings and memories of the …accountant? Yes, he had been in his late 30's when he'd jumped, an act of true hopelessness. He'd left behind no wife, no family, no assets – nothing was holding him to this world.

Nothing but my overactive imagination, Brooke thought to herself. She'd gotten the writing bug sometime this summer, characters just popping unbidden into her mind, gripping her thoughts until something happened to snap her out of it, like the toaster just now. If she cared to, she could re-wind her thoughts and see who had been in them, thinking what things, and if she followed it carefully could see their whole life unfold before her. Some of them were bleak and empty, like the accountant, and some of them were flat tragic, and all of them were dead. She'd thought to worry about that at first, but it was so often the death of a character that came to mind first, like working its way backward that it just seemed the natural way to do it, now. Living her own life in forward motion almost seemed wrong.

She followed the life of the accountant all through the bus ride to school, though there really wasn't much to it. She jotted down notable thoughts and impressions all through the welcome back orientation, but by the end of it she'd tapped Harold out. His life just hadn't been that interesting. She felt bad for thinking so, when his end seemed so lonely, but it was true. Maybe she'd invent some interesting life points for him later to make it up to him that in the end he had to die.

The rest of her day was eaten up by syllabi and catching up with friend's forgotten over the summer, and by the time she'd made it home, she'd quite forgotten about Harold the jumper accountant.

Her mother was in the living room, doing follow along yoga on the Wii she'd gotten "for" Brooke for Christmas. Brooke tried to sneak straight upstairs from the kitchen, but her shadow crossing the french doors was enough to get her mother's attention.

"Brooke," she called, "How was your first day?"

"The same as last year," she said, dropping her backpack on the stairs and heading back for the kitchen. She may as well eat if her mother was going to keep her down here.

"That's good," she said absently, debating over which pose to do next.

Brooke rolled her eyes, and continued in the same tone. "I watched a man jump off a building today."

Her mother made some acknowledging noise as she tried "focus her breathing" and "find her center". Brooke popped some Bagel Bites in the microwave, then grabbed the shopping list note pad off the fridge and began to take stock of what was low. If her mother was here, doing vaguely domestic things, she'd likely go to the grocery store before going off on her next "weekend" trip. Brooke could take the bus and do the shopping on her own, but she hated all the looks she got, and hated spending any of her step-father's money directly. She could overlook that he'd moved the two of them into this huge house, with it's four bedrooms and fully finished basement on the hill, and even was usually able to ignore that most of her world possessions were given to her by him as bribes to like him. But every time she used the charge card he'd given her, she felt dirty, like she was no better than her mother. Oh sure, Brooke was certain her mother liked the man she'd married well enough, but she liked the idea of him more than the actually, Brooke was sure. She liked being whisked to far off places and getting special treatment because she was so and so's guest and knowing that everyone was looking at her and talking about her and it all just seemed really ridiculous to Brooke, but whatever.

She stopped her bagels just before the timer went off so the ding wouldn't catch her mother's attention, and she grabbed a soda and crept toward the stairs. When she picked up with backpack without her mother stirring, she figured she was in the clear and walked up the stairs at normal speed.

Mood pretty well deflated after that pretty typical encounter, Brooke pulled all of her books out of her bag and started transferring various due dates into her day planner. When she finished, she made sticky notes of which chapters were being covered when and put them all in their right places in each book, feeling rather accomplished and responsible by the time she was done. Then she fired up her laptop and started playing on her favorite virtual pet site while Iming her friends about what a drag this class was and how so and so had gotten a new car and the like. She went to bed hours after she'd meant to but not too terribly long after midnight.

She was having the battlefield dream again. She always meant to write it down the next morning when she got up, so she could track and catalog when she had it, but she never seemed to remember to until a week or so later, and by then she could never seem to track down exactly which night it had been. She let the thought go and sunk more fully into the dreamscape, determined to soak up as many details as she could this time.

The plain was littered with bodies, each army retreated into the hills to rest and regroup. On a rocky outcropping near the top of the tallest hill, a figure in a long, black cape stood and surveyed the scene. She watched as the circling crows descended, taking the shapes of pale women when they touched the ground. The moved about the fallen soldiers, kneeling here and there to touch one seemingly at random. But even circling so high overhead, Brooke could something subtle change about each soldier they touched, some virtue going out of the fallen to leave them just so much dead meat.

She banked, wheeling around in a wide turn to bring herself to the rock where the figure stood. She landed near her, taking on a human form herself and standing at the figure's side, waiting to be addressed. Some nights, Brooke could remember what the figure said, some nights not, but it never stayed with her into the waking world. All she could remember was that this was a memory of an argument long forgotten by either side, one in many that would lead to …something. She woke to the sound of her alarm and rolled over to climb into a shower, an attempt to chase away the fog in her head.