Aur’s vision was met with a towering wall of silvery Mist, which fought to turn the air in his lungs to ice. Where sight failed, his senses told him all he needed to know – his now-enemy, the Sygnus, was just ahead of him. Moments before, there was a battle-dance between Sygnus and the Dragon warrior, Kudako. But now, battle was silent as the frozen Mist rose to its master’s call.
Aur respected Kudako’s battle prowess, and had no doubt that under more normal circumstances, the Dragon could hold his own even against the raw might of the boy-Sygnus. But Lucci was no longer Lucci anymore. He’d chosen his path, and was now something else. Something that was once Lucci.
While others flinched at the thought of striking out at what had once been a child in their care, Aur did not. He had lived and died through this kind of battle time and time again. He knew the danger and the power of this enemy. He did not shy from his duty to strike a Sygnus down.
Within his mind, he could sense the outline of the tall, lanky body and the long, unfurled wings. His blade was silent as he swept forward, straight into the Mist. It grasped for him, the breath of the dead, just the way it grasped for the living. But the Mist of the otherworld had no hold over one of his kind.
A golden warmth emanated from his form, pushing back the Mist in great ripples. Aur may have lost much of his power over his long sleep, but there were still things that came to him innately.
The curved golden sword dropped in a whistling arc, meeting with feather and bone. Blood splattered with the blow, burning away in the hungry Mist. Not even its master’s blood was sacred to it. A ripple of mild disappointment washed over the Watcher as the Sygnus turned, mostly unharmed.
Next time, I must strike deeper.
As Luccious’ silver eyes locked met Aur’s golden-eyed gaze, the Sygnus took a moment to size up his new adversary. It was enough of a distraction to allow Kudako the time he needed to fight his way out of the Mist that held him.
There was almost a look of surprise on the Dragon’s face as the matching gold eyes recognized him. “Aur. You shouldn’t have followed me here.”
There were many things the Watcher could have said at that moment. So many that he chose to say nothing at all. It was more important to focus on the silent rage that twisted the Sygnus’ face as Luccious leveled the long, black blade at Aur.
Sygni always think they are immortal.
The sword spun in the Sygnus’ hand, a motion unknown to the wielder, but known to the blade. Aur recognized it. It was a dangerous weapon. Something forged by Dragon blood in the Time Before, meant to slay the Arweinydd who rose against their captors in a mass embrace of Chaotic power.
The Arweinydd were not the only ones to create Sygni for war. When the Dragons realized the power and potential the half-breeds held, they made some of their own.
Aur slipped under the enraged arc of darkness as the blade howled through the air. The deaths of so many corrupted Arweinydd, the unkillable Chaos, had stained the sword black over the years. The last Sygnus to wield it had given into the whispered temptations of power, fully embracing Distortion, which consumed him.
When I told Zemi of the sword’s existence, this was not what I intended for it.
Aur darted around to the Sygnus’ other side, a catlike motion that carried him faster than a man his size should move. He spun and slashed, looking for any kind of opening in Luccious’ advance. But the sword knew too many battles and too many tricks. It probably even tasted the blood of his own kind at one point.
Which is problematic.
Kudako was moving again, pressuring Luccious to divide his attention between Dragon and Watcher. It was with grim satisfaction as Aur’s blade struck home, slicing a raw line of red across the Sygnus’ upper arm. Hardly enough to wound such a creature, but proof that the two of them could whittle him down.
Perhaps with enough stalling, Zemi will find his truth… it may be enough to tip this battle.
However, despite Luccious’ inexperienced mind, the Sygnus quickly realized the battle for what it was. A ruse. A distraction. Something to buy enough time for a miracle to happen.
Dripping sweat and blood, multiple wounds soaking his clothes crimson, Luccious lifted his hand in a motion of command. The earth itself moaned as the Mist churned into frightening reality. No longer merely vapor, spirit forms began to take shape inside, the tormented souls bound to blade and to boy. All that died at the Sygnus’ hand was doomed to walk at his side in the Mist.
Kudako’s face was unreadable. Aur let nothing show in his hooded eyes. But this… this was something he knew he couldn’t fight against. Destroying the soul of a once-living was strictly forbidden to his kind.
The spirit Mists rose up over him, like a breaking wave, pausing for a single breath before crashing down over him and Kudako. There was cold. An unnatural cold. And so much rage… sorrow… vengeance. Fed by Chaos and death, the swelling tide of tortured emotion could only serve to torment and twist its master even further.
Aur felt the biting cold press in around him. Drawing his mind within his core, the pain of his dying physical form was nothing but a distant, unpleasant sensation. For his kind, it was natural – merely shedding one skin to step into another.
And in between the transformations came the familiar, long darkness. A dreamless sleep.
“Aur?” A sound called his name. A gritty, familiar voice, working so hard to coax him from the depths of soul slumber.
His form felt light, suspended in air, as if weightless. Or in a place without mass. He was distantly aware of the feeling of arms. Fingers. Curled around legs. Bent legs. A curled position.
Why would he be in a curled position?
“Aur, wake up!” The voice didn’t command. He never commanded. It wasn’t Zemi’s way.
There was a hint of buried desperation in the tone that stirred something within Aur. He felt his mind unfolding, giving way to senses, waking to take in the world that waited for him.
His golden eyes opened, fighting to focus his blurry vision. Then, he realized, it wasn’t his vision that was blurry, but that the pocket dimension around him was unformed and struggling to maintain itself.
Just like the form of the Dreigiau that floated in a false self-confidence before him.
Dressed in red robes trimmed in gold, his white mane-like hair wavered in a breeze that only seemed to touch him. His face was lined, not with the passage of time, but with the maturity of spirit, replacing the once youthful naivety with what could almost pass for wisdom. His teal-flecked eyes were just as deep as always, like staring into the depths of the universe.
At the sight of his Watcher waking, Zemi cracked a fangy smile that didn’t touch his eyes. Always that carefree, cheerful outer image that hid his true nature. It worked for the Earthians, but it didn’t work for Aur. He saw the truth in everything.
Though Zemi knew this, he maintained his outer masquerade.
“There you are,” the Dreigiau grinned wider, placing emphasis on the last word of his pun. “Not much of a morning person, yes-no?”
Behind that smile was the weight of grief. Age touched his face now, giving him the look of someone who had experienced loss. Someone who understood the difference between life and death.
Zemi was no mere Arweinydd anymore. And the experiences, though strengthening spirit, had weakened him in every other way.
“Still just as stiff as always, I see. Some things never change,” the Dreigiau reached out and promptly patted Aur on the head.
The Watcher had little time to ponder his master’s alterations, because that’s when he noticed his own. Aur lifted his hand and observed as his fingers flexed. This wasn’t the hand of a battle-worn warrior. The fingers were small and slender, the skin young and new. When he looked quizzically at Zemi, he realized the Dreigiau towered over him as an adult would a child.
“No. Some things have changed,” the Watcher held out his hand in proof. “May I inquire what’s going on?”
“I was getting there, if you’d let me. Sheesh!” The Dreigiau gave an almost authentic pouty face. “What ever happened to: Hi, Zemi! How’re you! Good to see you again!”
Then, Zemi turned and paced a few steps away. His thoughts twisted through the pocket dimension, which darkened in response to emotions. Very real emotions of grief.
“I had a son,” he got straight to the point.
Aur felt his breath catch in his throat. The realization of what that meant weighed heavily on him.
“I know you think I’m crazy for it, but I had a reason,” Zemi grit his teeth, still not looking at the Watcher. “We needed someone who could stand against the coming of the Darkstar.”
“So you created your own Sygnus.”
“He wasn’t just a Sygnus… he was my son.”
“You know the danger.”
“He was different.”
So many times, Aur had heard that same proclamation. They almost always ended up the same way.
But in this case… it might be true.
“Has… something happened?” the Watcher asked with hesitation.
The twisted memory of Luccious’ enraged face flickered through his mind. If there was another Sygnus, and in the line of the Dreigiau, he wondered if there was a hope to defeat it this time.
“My son is dead.” The words creaked from between Zemi’s lips.
Aur froze, not having expected that answer. He stared at the hunched and nearly defeated shape of the Dreigiau, and thought he could almost see the hint of tears in the Arweinydd’s eyes.
His mind cast about, struggling to find a proper emotional response, “I’m… I’m sorry. For your loss.”
Zemi closed his eyes, speaking in a bitter tone, “It happened as we knew it would.”
Aur didn’t know what that meant. He knew many things, but he still didn’t fully comprehend what passed for thoughts in an Arweinydd’s mind. Asking to fill his curiosity would be rude. So he remained silent.
“We have to protect his sons,” the Dreigiau told him. “My grandsons.”
“Sons?” The Watcher choked on the idea. The sons (plural!)… of a Sygnus… from the line of the Dreigiau. All this could mean nothing but danger.
“Yes. My son, KluYa, had two children,” Zemi explained quietly. “One was hidden safely with the humans who live on the Blue Planet. However, the eldest… was captured by Zeromus’ forces.”
“Then we must act quickly to go and retri–”
“No.” Zemi held up his hand with a pained face. “I don’t have the power to challenge the Chaos right now. I’ve fallen out of view for a reason. If Zeromus discovers that I still exist, he will come to end me. If I fall, there will be no one to guide these children in the future.”
Aur sighed, pondering Zemi’s explanation. He didn’t know if it was a sound idea, but the Dreigiau was much more knowledgeable and aware of happenings than he was. There had to be a reason for whatever he chose to enact.
“Very well. What do you need me to do?” the Watcher asked.
“This boy may be destined for Shadow, but I refuse to let his soul his become tainted with darkness,” the Dreigiau said. His eyes narrowed with deep thought. “Zeromus will try to twist him and distort him. To take his hidden powers and use them to wage his wars. We can’t allow Zeromus to destroy the child’s spirit the way that he did…”
It was unspoken, but the weight of the grief in Zemi’s eyes said it all.
He’s trying to do this again. To protect a Sygnus child. This is his grief talking.
And yet, Aur couldn’t help but respond with his own emotion. Agreeing to help. “I understand.”
This unspoken offer seemed to perk Zemi up. He dropped a big, friendly hand on the boy’s head. “Good! Because I’m sending you there to protect him as my Watcher!”
“Wha.. what?” This was not the expected turn of events.
“To do that, you’ll have to live with the humans, disguised as one of them. That’s the reason I gave you this new form.”
“A… child’s form? Certainly, a warrior would have fit better,” Aur protested.
“It’s sometimes the small things that go most unnoticed,” Zemi wagged a finger at him. “Besides, I need you to earn the boy’s trust. It’ll be easier to become his friend if you appear closer in age.”
The Watcher sighed again, “Very well.”
Then, the Dreigiau did something unexpected. He reached down with both hands and gripped Aur’s smaller hands in his. A pleading expression of worry wrinkled his face, making him once again seem older. “Aur. Please protect my grandson. Don’t let the darkness take him. Help him find the strength within to fight the temptations of Chaos.”
Taken aback, the boy nodded, at first in dumb silence. Then, he said, “It’ll be as you command.”
The voice echoed through his mind as he felt the world around him twist. Aur fought to hold on to internal clarity – the one thing that kept him calm and unfeeling within his core. But now, something strange was happening.
First, find the boy. His name is Benjamin.
Zemi’s mind-voice followed him, though Aur could no longer see the Dreigiau. He was moving forward, lifted off his feet.
He’s been taken to the tower called Zot.
With sudden speed, Aur burst through the wall of the pocket dimension, meeting with a crisp wind. Below him, he could see a vast expanse of green that rushed into the distance, where it met the blue sky.
Oh, before I forget. There’s one little limitation to your human form.
Then, he was falling, a trail of glittering light following in his wake.
For your protection and his.
Hazy blurs began to fill his memory, blotting them out and obscuring the past. Calmness gave way to something unknown – real emotion. Fear? Panic?
You won’t have any memory of who you really are.
And with that, a golden light exploded in the heart of the forest below. When the light faded, all that remained was the unmoving form of a small sandy-blond boy, dressed in plain human clothes.