Chapter One

It was close to midnight though the Toronto Bay Subway Station was still abuzz with passengers on the platform. Elia Egerton had been standing with hot coffee in hand when a drunk man bumped her, splattering her drink onto the floor. The man hadn’t even bothered to apologize. Elia had half a mind to tell him off but she was too exhausted to fight over a dollar coffee. She had just come from the cemetery. She’d lost track of time before she realized she needed to go back to her dorm and finish her papers for a report due next week.

This is my life now, she sighed. Rushing home to get schoolwork done on a weekend instead of hanging out with Corliss by the docks and drinking stolen beer.

The train arrived. She boarded the car and made her way to the last empty seat at the back. She slumped down on her seat, put her paint-splattered backpack on her lap, and hugged it like a pillow. She sat staring at her reflection in the window. Elia plugged in her headset and browsed through her playlist. She stared at her reflection again; Dark hair tied in a tired ponytail, uneven bangs, bags under the eyes, chapped lips, and dry skin. At nineteen years old, she felt older than she was.

What would you have said if you saw me like this right now, Corliss? she scoffed as she looked away from her disheveled reflection. You wouldn’t even let me go out without combing my hair, remember? But you’re six feet underground so I’m off the hook, aren’t I?

She looked down on her palm. Eight tiny points in a shape of a heptagon and one in the middle protruded from her skin like insect-bites. She curled her hand into a fist.

Cors, I’m sorry. I… I just wish you were here. She inhaled deeply. Noah needs you… I need you…

The subway slowed to a stop. No one got off. The car was quiet. Most of the passengers were looking down their phones. The train moved again but the passengers remained stiff and unmoving. They had been like that since the moment the train left. She looked again. They were not breathing. Everyone in the car was frozen.

She removed her headset slowly. Elia’s palms began sweating. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed three hooded men by the door in front of her. She couldn’t quite see what they looked like, but they were all tall. One of them was huge. She tried to keep calm, thinking of ways to escape. Elia wanted to kick herself for not noticing it before. She should’ve known they would come for her, after all these years. She pretended to be on her phone, while watching them closely.

The first one was slender, his silhouette almost feminine with his long neck and lithe, olive-skinned arms. Purple strands of curly hair escaped from his hood, his purple beard neatly trimmed. A hexagon-shaped, green-lensed monocle loomed over his right indigo eye. Beaded bracelets lined his wrists and stoned rings held his fingers. He had lost weight, but his serious face was still the same.

It’s Levire the Mesthyk! she gasped.

Beside him stood a beast of a man with a dark gold face that gleamed under the lights and a lion’s mane of golden dreadlocks down to his waist. His shoulders were so wide and muscular that Elia wondered how he had gotten through the train doors. Even his head almost touched the ceiling. On his left arm a heavy golden armband, intricate with glowing symbols.

The third person had silver hair that frayed along his pale, sharply cut and chiseled jaw. Powerful but lean, sinewy muscles outlined underneath his oversized black sweater. He looked like he was made of stone. A plain silver armband adorned his left arm as well.

Her heart quickened. There was no escaping them. However, they hadn’t noticed she was on to them yet. The train slowed. “Old Mill Station,” the voice over the intercom announced. This was her only opportunity. As soon as she heard the hydraulic swishing of the doors, Elia bolted down the aisle. Her backpack hit one of the lifeless passengers who quickly wisped into smoke.

A Mesthyk’s illusion!

“Aurelia! Wait!” Levire cried. He took off his hood and the purple curls fell on his shoulders. His green monocle flashed and all the passengers in the car disappeared.

His two companions ran after her, but they collided in the aisle. Elia dropped her backpack and bumped into a group of people on the platform who spewed curses and insults at her. Instead of running up the exit stairs, she pushed the utility door by the end of the platform open and went in. There was another door to her right which exited onto a steep, sloped ravine. Tall reeds cut her skin, the thorns her face. She hissed in pain but kept going in the dark. She stumbled. She zigzagged between the small trees when the ground trembled underneath her and she fell. Gritting her teeth, she was almost sure Levire had done it.

Those bastards! Captain Gunther sent them to get me. I’m never going back!

Elia stood up and leaned against a tree. There were no movements or sounds behind her as she trailed along to reach her building. The ravine cleared into a small patch of unconstructed parking lot.

Five more minutes back to the road. Just five more—

Lightning exploded a few feet away. A dark figure emerged, crouching where the lightning bolt had struck. The clouds lowered and heaved, a gust of wind blew her away.

“You idiots can go back where you came from!” she cried. “I’m not going with you! You hear me? I’m not going with you!”

The figure uncurled itself. The rain was freezing. She backed away and broke into a fevered run. She scaled a wired fence, crossed a small shallow stream of water and climbed back up another slope. She missed her footing, tripped, and rolled down the slope and back to the stream, hitting a rock so hard that she felt her ribs crack. She bit down on her lip to avoid making any sound. Another tremor. She got on all fours and started crawling her way out of the ditch when she heard a shriek.

“UWAAAKKK!!!”

The figure stood, growing bigger and more terrifying with every lightning strike. Before her stood a deformed, gaunt creature, standing ten feet tall on hind legs, with a black head covered in rot. Round, bulging, blood-red eyes gleamed with madness. Its jaw opened to reveal long, needle-like teeth dripping with venom. Its long arms, metallic, serrated black scythes, hacking apart the reeds in its path.

A… a ne’koro?! Elia crawled faster out of the water, ignoring the pain in her side.

“GRUUURRR…”

The air filled with the stench of burned flesh, dried blood, and rotting carcasses. A thud. Water splattered all over her.

“UWAAAKKK!!!” the ne’koro shrieked.

Elia got up and ran, and the monster broke into a gallop. It slashed her back clean. Something pierced her abdomen. The ne’koro’s needle-tooth. Blood gushed from her stomach like an open faucet. She fell forward. The hotness of her blood, the frozen chill of the rain. The water was filling her mouth and nose. She trembled uncontrollably. She crawled but could hardly see or breathe. She could feel a rib poking into her lung. Using all her strength, she lay on her side to prevent the tooth from cutting off her blood supply. She willed her hands to glow, but nothing happened.

The ne’koro towered over her, garbling. Maggots crawled along its maw, blood dripped from its eyes, venom down its teeth. Her cheeks blistered with every drop. She squinted in agony as the creature opened its jaw. The ne’koro grazed its scythed arm against her throat, slicing open her neck down to her chest, cutting through bone. Everything started to fade when a blinding silver light flashed and the ne’koro’s torso was cut in half. A pair of the bluest eyes seared her vision before everything dissolved into nothingness.

Chapter Two

Elia recognized the rhythmic whirring of her dorm room’s ceiling fan. A soft groan curled in her throat. She tried to move but her body remained still, her eyes too heavy to open. The smell of fragrant oils and burning crystals filled her nose and the back of her throat itched. Faint images of blood and rain crept from her memory. She remembered. Her throat had been sliced open by a bloodthirsty ne’koro.

Footsteps shuffled nearby. Whispering.

Elia opened her eyes slightly. Through her blurry vision, she could make out Levire standing over her. A purple curl of hair fell over his face, his green monocle shining in the poorly lit room. Beside him stood the beast of a man with golden dreadlocks walking back and forth in her small dorm room, and the silver-haired one leaned like an ice statue against the wall with his arms crossed and his blue eyes glaring.

“Sichiev ionu pialionu?” Golden Dreadlocks asked Levire. His voice was deep, almost like a growl.

“Nuom, Ozzo,” Levire answered him softly. He took a rectangular object out of his pocket and held it over Elia. “Piro-aliosiev Elysarii.”

“Ioevsi, Elysarii alroev gamro-evaltav,” replied Golden Dreadlocks. His dreadlocks shone as he nodded to Levire.

They… they saved me? Elia thought groggily. Levire and the men on the train saved me?

She jolted in bed, shocked by small, deep-seated zaps of electrical current combing through her skin. Elia knew right away that she was being treated by Levire with a gi’lao comb, a rectangular hand-held device that resembled a bristled brush. It treated the patient by releasing electrical currents from its thin bristles to renew tissues and cells. She tried to speak. Nothing. Just a guttural sound in her throat.

“Sichiev iosi alwalkapev,” a cold, sharp voice cut the air. It belonged to Silver Ice who was leaning against the wall.

She’s awake.

She remembered the language they were speaking. She used to speak it too. She was rusty, but it was coming back.

“Delamonu ne’koro! Kapiolam hevro,” Silver Ice seethed. “Io fialiolam moio deluftavio!”

Damn that ne’koro! It almost killed her! I failed this mission!

“The three of us failed, okay, Calyx?” Golden Dreadlocks growled at him. “No matter how much we plan, we can’t always know. You got there in time. We did what we could. The Oranyn is safe now.”

Elia’s ears unclogged, and she understood every word they were saying.

“She almost died, Ozzo!” Silver Ice hissed. He punched the wall so hard it reverberated across the whole room. “I’m supposed to protect her! If Levire didn’t revive her in time— I need her alive!”

“We all need her alive! Not just you! Me… Levire… the whole of Astrofyr, we need the Oranyn alive too,” Golden Dreadlocks said, his voice lowered. “Calyx, I’m warning you, don’t get too close to her when she wakes up. She has a mission too. A mission far more important than anything right now. Look, what I’m just saying is that we need her to do it right. The girl doesn’t live just for you—”

Silver Ice was about to step up to Golden Dreadlocks. “Do you think I don’t know that?”

Golden Dreadlocks pomped his massive chest as if he was ready to square off with Silver Ice when Levire got between his two towering companions.

“Stop!” Levire interjected. “Don’t be a morgok, Calyx. Stupid actions will get us nowhere. You already sliced the ne’koro into pieces, it’s done.”

“But what if—”

“Enough. There’s another time and place to express your sentiments.” Levire’s voice strained. “Right now, Afdi Laureana is on her way. I want you both to be level-headed. Do mind your manners, alright? Especially you, Ozzo.”

Golden Dreadlocks scoffed. “Do I have any other choice?”

Levire sighed. “Why does it feel like I’m taking care of awful children with the two of you? Ozzo, please refrain from being such a brainless goof of hair-strings, and Calyx, tone down your bastardly irrational temper. We’re almost done with our mission here.”

“Your beard doesn’t cover the fact that you’re a doting grandmother, you know that, Levire?” Silver Ice scoffed as he leaned back against the shadows of the wall.

Golden Dreadlocks snickered. “Be careful with your words, Calyx. Levire might turn our weapon into his toenail clippers.”

“You two are morgoks of the highest degree. Idiots,” said Levire.

The door opened and an older woman, tall with short red hair, hurried to Elia’s side.

Mom? What is she doing here?

“Don’t touch her, Afdi Laureana,” Levire warned the woman. “The gi’lao is almost done repairing her cells and tissues. Her bones reconstructed a few minutes ago.”

Afdi Laureana? Elia’s head ached in confusion. No. ‘Mom?’ ‘Dr. Laurie Egerton…’ She’s Afdi Laureana?

“A-are you taking her now?” Laurie asked them, her voice hoarse and shaky.

“Not yet, but we leave tomorrow morning when the first light touches the mist of the falls,” Golden Dreadlocks answered. “It’s a very small window for us to open the irisol’s path back to Astrofyr and we must be there at the exact moment. The irisol will not stay open for long.”

“Can Elia at least see Morgan and Noah before she leaves?” Laurie asked.

“Staying here in Georis’al puts everyone in danger,” Golden Dreadlocks said sharply. “Georis’al, or Earth as you call it, will no longer be safe for the girl. That includes your family. The Oranyn was attacked by a ne’koro which means Myrde Gytha already knows she’s here. Myrde Gytha is not going to stop until the Oranyn is dead. We’re taking her now.”

“She’s leaving us forever.” Laurie gritted her teeth, suppressing her tears. “Do you know how much a mother can bear to suffer?”

“Aurelia is not your daughter,” Golden Dreadlocks snarled. “Your daughter is—”

“That’s enough, Ozzo,” Levire interjected. “We are aware. Excuse his insolence, Afdi Laureana. But I’m afraid he’s right, we must go soon.”

“Please, Levire. Please…” Laurie whimpered.

Golden Dreadlocks cleared his throat. “We must be at the falls before sunrise tomorrow. She can stay with you tonight, but once she leaves, the memories of your husband and your grandson and anyone involved in Aurelia’s life will be gone. Levire will take care of it.”

“Including me?” Laurie broke down. “Two daughters… Losing two daughters… Can I ever be forgiven, Ozzo? Will I ever get to see her again? Please…”

“Aurelia—” Golden Dreadlocks started to say.

“Elia,” Laurie interjected. “Her name is Elia… Elia Egerton.”

“Alright then, Elia doesn’t belong here,” Golden Dreadlocks sneered. “Just as you no longer belong in Astrofyr.”

“Ozzo!” Levire said sharply.

Mom! I’m not going anywhere with these bastards! Elia thought to herself.

Elia’s body shook as stronger currents zapped into her skin and down into the very marrow of her bones. Her jaw clamped shut. The muscle fibers stiffened and stretched causing tremendous pain all over her body. It was like sandpaper running up and down her frame. She could almost feel the dust settling on her chafed skin. She almost passed out, but it was gone in an instant, leaving her breathless.

“What just happened?” Laurie asked.

“The gi’lao currents dissolved any venom and metal left by the ne’koro inside her bloodstream. The protective film her father casted in her pores was infected, so it had to be removed.”

“The saflou film was infected?” Laurie gasped. “But how is she going to last the air here with the saflou film gone?”

“She won’t. Not for long. That’s why I’m decontaminating her system with the gi’lao comb before administering the oxygenated crystal fumes, so she’ll be able to breathe,” Levire said. “Right now, her cells are expelling any traces of polluted matter from the remnants of the ne’koro’s venom. We need her blood system cleared before she travels back inside the irisol to Astrofyr…”

His voice droned on in the background and Elia’s memories surfaced, dark memories she had tried to bury for a long, long time. Her eyes closed once more. It was the day before she came to Georis’al, to Earth, ten years ago. The day she promised to herself that she was never ever going back to Astrofyr…

Chapter Three

A nine-year-old Aurelia Glowstead sat on periwinkle grass surrounded by purple crescent flowers, the petals shaped like the crescent moons she picked behind their granite domed hut. She had some of the blooms in her hair and they matched its color.

Purple hair and indigo eyes were the Deians distinctive physical trait. Except, Aurelia was an Oranyn, a once glorious race that had dwindled in their numbers until only two Oranyns remained in the whole seven terranes of Astrofyr: Aurelia and her father, Master Oswin Glowstead.

Aurelia placed a flower in her hand and watched the eight-points in her palm glow, a heptagon with a dot in the middle. The mark of the Elysares upon the Oranyns. She felt the heat in her veins as she closed her hand. She felt the flower transform into something hard. She opened her hand and sitting there was an irregularly shaped ring. She sighed and looked at the array of imperfect rings by her side. She tossed the ring with the others and proceeded to take another flower in her hand.

“Aurelia! Aurelia!” a crackling voice called out from inside the dome.

“I’m out here, Papa!” Aurelia replied. “I’m in the garden.”

Master Oswin came out of the dome leading to their small garden. Wispy strands of purple hair were plastered with sweat on his wrinkly forehead. His arms, covered with silver tattoos, held a wooden crate. He set the crate on Aurelia’s side and sat there. His indigo eyes were etched with worry, but his voice remained steady. He picked a flower from the grass.

“What’s this you’re doing?”

“I’m practicing my ora. I’m making rings out of crescent blooms.” She handed him one of the metal rings, imperfectly round, still rough around the edges. Metallic crescent petals crookedly placed around the ring. “You can have that.”

“Aurelia…” he started to say, clutching onto the ring tight. “You must get ready.”

Aurelia’s large, indigo eyes turned dark. She picked another flower, and in an instant, the flower became a metal ring. “It’s my birthday today, Papa. I don’t want to go. My friend promised to come for my birthday. I want to stay here. Please don’t send me off, Papa.”

“We talked about this. Captain Gunther will be here tonight to take you.” He stroked her deep purple hair. “You can’t stay here, Aurelia. But when the time comes, you will return home. I promise you, my love.”

“Are we bad people, Papa?” Aurelia asked quietly. “None of the children from the village want to play with me because I’m… I’m an Oranyn… just like you. They said the Oranyns are cursed. They said that Mama got killed because of you. Is that true?”

Master Oswin frowned, mist formed in his eyes. “Don’t listen to them. They don’t know anything. Your mother did what she had to do. She restored the Veyla barrier that protects Astrofyr.” He looked up to the violet sky with ribbons of copper clouds. Behind it, a vast silken light flashed briefly, surrounding the atmosphere. “Look at the sky, Aurelia. Do you see the Veyla behind the clouds? It’s spread like a blanket across the skies of the terranes. Your mother was very brave. She was very brave. Remember that, Aurelia.”

Aurelia looked up and watched the Veyla barrier illuminate. “The Veyla killed Mama,” she said bitterly. “I wish she was still alive. I wish I had a mama like everybody else in the village. Papa…”

“I wish the same thing. I wish she was here to see what a beautiful and clever girl you’ve become. Demelza would have been so proud of you, Aurelia.”

“I don’t even remember what she looked like anymore.”

Master Oswin inhaled deeply. “You were too young to remember her. But your mother had a twinkling smile, just like yours.”

“I’m a bad person. I don’t even remember what my own mother looked like. Being an Oranyn is bad, isn’t it, Papa? Is this why I’m going away?”

“Let me tell you this: Being an Oranyn does not make you a bad person. The Oranyns are… we are chosen by the Seven Elysares to have the ora, the gift of Light, and only our hands can hold such a gift of power in all of Astrofyr.” He held Aurelia’s small, warm hands in his. The eight-points in his palms glowed. “And the Elysares had chosen you.”

“Chosen me?” Aurelia pursed her lips. “You mean they cursed me. That’s why I don’t have friends. Those children were right. We are cursed, Papa.”

Master Oswin sighed. “We are not cursed but we are not perfect, and I made a grave mistake but this mistake, this is what I am trying to fix now. This is why you must go. I need you safe.”

“If we’re not bad, then why am I going with Captain Gunther? He’s one of the Exyns. They want to break the peace in the terranes. They’re the bad people!”

“No, my love. Captain Gunther is on our side and the Exyns are fighting to preserve our terranes and all the phyles. We are at war right now. Aurelia, we are the only ones who can help Astrofyr. And if I don’t keep you safe, Astrofyr will collapse.”

“I’m scared, Papa. Am I… Am I going to die?”

Master Oswin inhaled deeply. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you. I left instructions for Levire where to find you. I will leave him this map. He knows what to do.” He tapped on a piece of flat metal plate pendant around his neck. “This map can only be unlocked by your hands alone.”

She cried. “Are you… going to die… Papa?”

“Whatever happens, I want you to be brave, my love. Just like your Mama.” Master Oswin’s eyes watered. He clasped his hands together and light filled between his palms, a thin stretch of film appearing. He held them over Aurelia’s head and the film seeped down through her head and skin.

“This saflou film will protect your astralence spirit wherever you go in the Universe until you come back here. It will diminish your strength and your ora, but you won’t be found easily.”

“I can’t use my ora?”

“No, not even if you try. You will be living among the humans of Georis’al. The humans have no powers like us over there.”

“What do these humans look like? Are they awful creatures?”

“The humans? You have to see for yourself. But I’d say they look very much like the Deians. We’re the closest to resemble the humans.”

“Master Oswin!” a roaring voice called from inside the dome. Master Oswin and Aurelia ran inside to see who it was.

A large Tasekk man stood in the middle of their living room. He had long, thick, fire-red dreadlocks tied with a string, reaching down to his waist. His golden arms sizzled with electricity, his steely eyes wide with anxiety. His black chest plate was dented as if he had been hit by something small and sharp. On his hand he wore an open metal glove with a muzzle on top, a shooting weapon called an oregunth that shot ore pins. The muzzle was still smoking.

“Captain Gunther!” Master Oswin exclaimed, frowning at the smoking oregunth glove. “What happened to you? Did you get into trouble? I thought you wouldn’t be here until nightfall.”

“Change of plans,” Captain Gunther said breathlessly. “Myrde Gytha’s Asraud guards are on our tail. They knew where we were!”

“Her Asraud guards? That’s not good. Myrde Gytha has eyes everywhere following our every move,” Master Oswin said worriedly. He patted his pockets and took out two stones. One silver and one green. “Here. Take these stones. Give these to your father. The green one is for the Exyns. I found a place in Sylvores where no one can find you. Use it to keep all the Exyns there. And the silver one is to keep Aurelia safe in case you are found. Were you followed here?”

Captain Gunther took the stones. “The Exyns created a diversion and the Asrauds are onto them now, but the girl and I need to leave right away.”

Master Oswin nodded. “Captain, take Aurelia to the cluster of Georis’al, to Earth. I already opened the irisol’s path to Earth behind the valley. Take her to Afdi Laureana. She can be safe with her there.”

“A-afdi Laureana? Are you out of your mind, Master Oswin? She can’t be trusted—”

“Just take her there, Captain!”

“Father trusts you too much.” Captain Gunther shook his head. “You better be right about this.”

Master Oswin retrieved another small, square, red glass from his pocket. “And before I forget, give this message to Afdi Laureana. She’ll know it’s from me.”

Gunther took the glass with caution. “What about you? Where are you going?”

“Levire will be here soon. I received his alphignos.” Mater Yoric showed Captain Gunther a black tubular glass with fading inscriptions in it. The coded message of the alphignos was disappearing. “I don’t think he can get to the village without being seen. Take Aurelia now and I will find him. Captain Gunther, Aurelia and this map are our only hope. Keep them both safe.”

“Papa…” Aurelia was sobbing uncontrollably.

Master Oswin kissed her forehead. “Go now, my love.”

BOOM!

The granite door was blasted open, the three of them thrown against a wall by the explosion. Master Oswin and Captain Gunther got up and blocked Aurelia from the intruder. A tall, thin, armored silhouette stood by the ruined entryway, his face hidden behind an onyx mask. In his hand, a long, black blade dripping with blood.

“The Pulseless!” Captain Gunther hissed.

The most ruthless, coldblooded monster Astrofyr had ever seen. A living shadow brought to life using Areon’s powers. A walking demon child sired by the depths of the Avisadis, alive but with no beating heart. The Pulseless moved aside. Behind him, a beautiful woman draped in billowing white silk entered. Her head was covered in a veil of crystal strands. White feathers decorated her silvery hair and her young pearlescent virginal face glowed radiantly.

“Why am I not surprised to see a Tasekk in this room? Traitors alike. Just as the father, so is the son,” the woman’s voice tinkled.

“How dare you call yourself a Myrde!” Captain Gunther roared. His golden electric arms sizzled.

“Myrde Gytha,” Master Oswin gritted his teeth. “Think about the phyles. This is their only home, don’t take it away. Areon is not who you think he is.”

Myrde Gytha smiled serenely at Master Oswin. “You turned your back on Areon, old man. He could have risen a long time ago, you useless Oranyn. The power to destroy the Veyla is in your hands but you turned coward. We could have been in the new terrane as Areon promised to us. I cannot let anyone stand in the way of Areon’s rising. Not even you, my friend. The Pulseless shall take the girl.”“Myrde Gytha! Please, I’m begging you. She’s only a child. Don’t do this.”

“Now, Pulseless! Finish them all!” Myrde Gytha vanished into a flicker of glittering dust. The Pulseless dragged the tip of his sword, cutting the floor in half.

“Captain Gunther!” Master Oswin shouted as he pushed Aurelia towards Captain Gunther, but he was a second too late.

The Pulseless swung his sword upward, slicing Aurelia’s back as Captain Gunther caught her. Captain Gunther shot through the wall with his oregunth glove, destroying the whole dome. He rolled with Aurelia in his arms but was shot in the back by a slew of ore pins. A dozen Asrauds, the bronze-armored soldiers of Myrde Gytha, swooped down in their flying vehicles one by one to shoot at him with their metallic oregunth gloves.

He bore the pain of the shots, but his armor prevented the pins from penetrating through his body. His left electrical arm elongated down to the ground and his fingers meshed together, transforming into one long, spiked whip. He whipped the Asrauds out of the way, thrashing them into the air and against the trees as he held onto Aurelia with the other. He cleared his way and made a dash for the valley.

A herd of flying eppos — long, chrome-scaled beasts with long snapping snouts — appeared from behind the valley. On their backs rode a troop of Exyns in grey carbon armor, shooting lasing arrows at the Asraud guards. The Asrauds fired back with their oregunth gloves.

“Captain Gunther!” a purple-haired Deian woman called from her eppo. She had a long lasing arrow in her hand and a bow in the other. She flew down to meet them. “We’ll give you cover! Go! Now!”

“Ymara! Get the villagers out of here fast!” Captain Gunther ordered the purple-haired woman.

Ymara, the Deian woman, nodded and flew away with the Exyns. Some of the Exyns retreated to the village where they quickly ushered the men, women, and children out of their domed huts while others battled with the Asrauds in the air.

Aurelia, in dizzying pain, looked over Captain Gunther’s shoulder and saw her father standing in the middle of their ruined dome.

The Pulseless was lunging his sword towards Master Oswin’s heart when an enormous bubble of golden light encapsulated the Pulseless. It burst, throwing everyone to the ground from the impact. The Asrauds flying near the dome were incinerated.

Silence filled the air. Captain Gunther grunted, looking for Aurelia, but he was too late. She was already running back to the remains of the dome. She found Master Oswin’s charred body lying in the rubble, the black sword having pierced through his heart. Captain Gunther got there in time to stop her from going near the corpse.

“Papa! No! Let me go! Papa!” She kicked and screamed at Captain Gunther, but he was immovable.

“He’s gone now, Aurelia!” Captain Gunther gritted his teeth. “Your father’s gone! You have to come back for us. Come back for us!”

There was movement beneath the rocks. It was the Pulseless. His armor had been burned off exposing his bony, grotesquely burned body. He was barely alive. Silver markings began to appear slowly on his smoking flesh.

“Kill him! Captain Gunther, kill him!” Aurelia cried until her voice was hoarse. “Kill him now!”

Captain Gunther stood over the Pulseless. Everything had burned off, even his hair. He was unrecognizable. He stirred, and his face twisted in agony. Captain Gunther pulled Aurelia back to shield her as the Pulseless tried to get up. Captain Gunther twisted his left arm from a whip into a giant broadsword. He swung at the Pulseless’s neck, but his blade bounced off. Captain Gunther gasped. The silver markings on the Pulseless’s body were becoming clearer.

“Kill him now!” Aurelia cried again. “Or I will!”

Aurelia held out her hands. A ball of purple flame appeared between them. She threw it and the Pulseless was immediately engulfed in fire.

He screamed.

His frantic movement flung the flames around, spreading it across the grass quickly. The purple flames began jumping, flickering over to the neighboring domes, catching quickly and burning everything in sight. People started running. Children were crying. Aurelia stood in shock.

“It’s the Oranyns!” an old Tasekk woman whose red dreadlocks had caught on fire screamed and pointed at Aurelia. “They destroyed the village!”

The burning Pulseless crawled towards the body of Master Oswin. Captain Gunther scooped up Aurelia and tossed her over his shoulder once more.

“Pantelo!” he cried and an eppo appeared in the sky.

Aurelia looked back in time to see the Pulseless removing his black sword from her father’s chest. The purple fire from his body had reached the sword. It exploded, obliterating everything in a flash.

“Papa…” Aurelia watched through her tears as her fire consumed the whole village. “I’m not coming back… Papa…”