The ground fumed and the dust rose. A young man emerged from the smoke, crawling toward the only clearing he could find. He rolled over, blood staining his left side.
So, it comes to this. His thoughts rumbled in his mind like the shaking earth around him. This is how it ends for me.
“Boulder!” A young woman rushed through the clouds of sediment and fell at his side.
“I was so wrong!” she sobbed, “I’m sorry! I was so very wrong!”
“Stream,” Boulder coughed, struggling to see her through dirt-filled eyes. “Do you remember when we first met?” Stream sniffed with eyes fixed upon his wounds.
“Do you remember?” He spoke firmly.
“…it was so long ago, Boulder…” Her tears began to fall, “…almost a hundred years!” Droplets rolled from her cheeks and dampened her ebony black hair.
“You…” He struggled to speak, “You gave me my name.”
The girl sobbed again this time choking on her words, “I hurt you…” she whispered.
“No, I fell…”
“You fell?!” Stream gasped. “But you were over a thousand feet in the air!”
“I guess when we lost our powers…” Boulder tried to sit up but failed to do so. “I still had a bit in me when I hit the ground…but…it wasn’t enough!”
“How am I even okey?”
“I saved you all and…” here he chuckled, “I guess I forgot to save myself.”
“Oh, Boulder!” she cried, “Can you ever forgive me? Can you forgive us for turning on you? For all of us turning on each other!” She buried her face into her hands, splashing tears.
“I already have…Stream!” Boulder gasped her name, “you have to tell them for me…”
Stream shook her head vigorously, “I can’t live on…I can’t live with myself.”
“No,” Boulder reached for her hand and she grasped it amidst tear-filled eyes.
“You have to tell them…” Boulder sputtered as another figure came into view. A young man with tattered leather clothes stood listlessly before them, showing wounds that would leave scars across his body.
“Leaf,” Boulder coughed, “Leaf, you have to tell them…”
“Look what I have caused.” Leaf stared blankly at the dirt, dropping two katanas on the ground with a clatter of metal.
“Look at what a leader I turned out to be!” Leaf cried in agony.
“You must tell them not to not lose hope!” Boulder desperately tried again. “Don’t…don’t be hard on yourselves! What’s done is now done! We must…go on.”
Leaf swallowed as his eyes finally met Boulder’s, “You should have been our leader, Boulder.”
Stream struggled to speak but only emitted blubbering sobs. Boulder squeezed her hand tightly and smiled at her. She struggled to return the comfort.
“No, Leaf,” Boulder continued, “you did make a good leader once before…and you can become the leader you were meant to be… yet again!” Leaf knelt down beside his fallen brother and grasped his hand.
“But I-” Leaf began but was cut off,
“Tell them to live on…to unite once again…and to unite those that the darkness of the stars…have not extinguished…lead them again!” Boulder’s amber eyes held a living, burning passion despite his weakening body.
Leaf could do nothing but swallow and Stream wrapped her arms around Boulder, being careful not to choke him.
“You know…” Boulder smiled gently, “I always wondered if we were truly all human underneath our… powers. I figured you’d have been one of those ugly-looking forest dwellers.”
Leaf tried to laugh but his voice was caught in his throat.
“You know also… I never understood your powers…while you had them at least.” Boulder laughed though it pained his whole body.
“What kind of element are plants?”
Leaf finally laughed though it was half-hearted and even Stream broke a smile.
“But I realized,” continued Boulder rasping, “we did not have the powers of elements in the sense of substances and objects… but we instead were elements that made up the planet…the ground…the trees…the water…the air…”
Boulder went silent as the sun was the final image his eyes saw. The dust had begun to clear and great mountains, fresh from the rocks below, came into view all around them. Stream began to weep so hard that her face stung in agony. Her breath came in short spurts that soon resulted in hiccups. Leaf moved to her side and put his arm around her.
“The Guardian,” He spoke after some of the longest moments he had ever felt in his lifetime, “The one…the only one who stayed faithful to his death… has breathed his last.”
Stream embraced Leaf, who held her tightly within in his arms. Finally, his tears began to flow too.
“I will,” He sobbed, “I will, Boulder…I will lead them again…forever united this time!”
Now the air was clear and the land’s new shape was made visible. Leaf looked heavenward,
“Thank You,” He prayed, “I see hope has not been fully taken from us. A new age has begun…let us pray hope continues for the future.”
1300 YEARS LATER
The dense trees seemed to be endless one night. Nevertheless, the young woman had chosen to continue trudging on through the rough underbrush. She was garbed in black armor that hardly glimmered against the clouded skies above. No moon could be seen this night though Aflineua swore she could see a star. This star led her on and she hoped the anonymous tip she’d been given wasn’t false.
“A secret gathering” she had been told held deep in the woods, almost twelve miles in from the village she’d been at.
Didn’t like that village anyway! she thought, starting to believe this extravaganza was simply a plot by the villagers to get her to leave. They hated her kind.
“What am I doing out here?” She asked herself, stopping in a small clearing. She strode across to sit on a small rock, looking like a lost knight who’d been dead for centuries. She felt her grey skin and sighed. She sat on a rock and thanked her old smith’s ability to make such light-weight metals.
Why am I doing this? She asked as if looking for her reflection in the darkness above. What am I going to find from some secret gathering anyway? There’s no guarantee they even have any treasure and if they did am I gonna steal it from a bunch of people?
Aflineua leaned back with a sigh, “I guess…” she whispered to herself, “I guess I’m looking for what I always have been…”
A flash of green light startled her and she spun around on the rock to see a green mist emanate through the trees. She stood and approached with caution. This time she thanked her old tailor who could make such sound absorbing cloth. Peering through the trees her eyes grew wider at the sight.
Before Aflineua, hovering a bit above the grass, a translucent girl sat curled up with her arms around her. A Wisp! The girl was holding something that appeared like a puff of air that she seemed very intent upon. Aflineua found this odd but was quickly distracted as she almost gasped aloud when she realized there was an entire group of figures silhouetted near the source of the green light. The Wisp sat away from the others in the corner of a much larger clearing than the one Aflineua had come from. Aflineua was transfixed by the sight before her and could do nothing but look on in wonder and amazement as an event began to take place.
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