Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1 - Cover

Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1

Copyright© 2023 by Uruks

Chapter 24: I Meet the <i>Local</i> Wildlife

The first batch of test subjects have matured past their embryo stage.

Ryan was having a dream. It was a strange dream, neither frightening, nor blissful. But it was dark. Very dark. Ryan found himself standing on a shadowy world, much darker than the one he and Éclair were trapped on. There were no stars, and it was raining hard. Violent, thunderous rain battered him from all sides. Lightning struck the ground at his feet and all around him. The lightning was the only source of light he could find on the dark world. It illuminated the ground, which was cracked and split in horrifying, jagged patterns. Sharp, pointed rocks dotted the landscape in irregular shapes, making for quite the macabre picture. If that wasn’t foreboding enough, Ryan started to notice lava ... actual lava seeping out of cracks all across the landscape. Hissing steam rose from the lava when the rain hit it, but the molten liquid didn’t cool and solidify. The magma was red and boiling, yet somehow looked angrier and more hateful than the lava Ryan was used to creating. Being an Erupter made Ryan a little more attuned to the nature of lava, but more importantly, the nature of the Elemental who wielded that lava. He could tell just by looking at it that this lava was not a natural occurrence, but most likely a creation of Elemency. The same could be said for the lightning which seemed much more menacing than the lightning Rachel used.

Grim, isn’t it?” said a voice from Ryan’s past, a voice he wished he never heard.

Ryan turned and saw a dark shape facing away from him in the distance. The Dark Creature was sitting on a tall rock looking over the horizon. It had its back to him, so all he could see was a man-like figure in a black, tattered cape that occasionally ruffled in the breeze. To say that Ryan was furious would be an understatement of the highest degree.

“Even now,” said Ryan darkly in a voice that could barely contain his resentment. “You won’t face me directly.”

The creature laughed a little. It was a cold, hateful sound that sent chills down Ryan’s spine. “You’re still not ready, boy. And at the rate you’re going, you never will be.”

Ryan took a step towards the Dark Creature that murdered his family. “Show me your face! Tell me who you are! Or are you afraid of me? Maybe that’s why all you do is skulk in the shadows, sending your stooges like those Fallen creeps to do your dirty work!”

The Dark Creature sighed, almost sadly, and waved a hand around dismissively. “All moves on the chessboard, boy, in a game older and more intricate than time and space itself. And all to make you stronger ... make you worthy of me. In the end, all things succumb to darkness.”

“Spare me your psycho riddles for once!” retorted Ryan, hatred fueling his every breath.

The creature then chuckled slightly, as if Ryan was an old friend who just said a joke. “By the way, I was impressed by your little aerial display earlier. How very gallant of you. Zand must be so proud. I’m sure your crewmates would have been too, had you bothered to notice them while you were busy being so very heroic for dear Eclair.”

Ryan felt a pang of regret at the jibe, but ignored it as he pointed a finger at the Dark Creature and took a step closer. “I knew you were behind that attack! Winged demon things fit your MO!”

Would you like to know how you can make yourself strong enough to kill me?” asked the Dark Creature pleasantly, as if he were offering Ryan a cup of tea.

“I’m already strong enough!” retorted Ryan as he crossed the distance between them in a single leap. The Dark Creature didn’t seem to even care as Ryan came up behind it and grabbed its black cloak by the shoulder. “I’ve been strong enough the moment you came into my life!”

The first thing you have to do, ” continued the Dark Creature, raising a black-scaled, clawed finger nonchalantly. It acted as if it didn’t hear Ryan, or feel his hand on its shoulder.

With a violent jerk, Ryan spun the creature around and saw the face of ... of Éclair. Blood was dripping from her mouth. Her face scarred and bloodied, her nose bent and perhaps broken. One of her eyes had been beaten so hard that it was swollen shut. Ryan looked down in horror as he saw that her throat was cut, blood oozing from the wound like a river. Ryan’s mind went blank with terror and revulsion at what he saw. He didn’t think anything could frighten him after watching Black Dragons tear his family and friends apart, but this was too much to bear.

Éclair’s battered face smiled sweetly, her once flawless teeth stained with blood, and a few missing. Then the bloodied Éclair gurgled through the gore in the Dark Creature’s horrid voice, “Is watch Éclair die.”

Ryan woke up with a start, gasping for breath as if he had almost drowned. Sweat beaded his brow and drenched his clothes. His heart felt like it would pound itself out of his chest at any moment. The sun was slowly rising, casting the slight illumination of the morning light. In desperation, Ryan looked to Éclair. She was still resting peacefully only a few feet away from him, her face still beautiful and flawless ... her expression still serene. Ryan struggled to steady his breathing as he put a hand to his chest, but found the act near impossible.

It was just a dream; it didn’t mean anything! repeated Ryan to himself. It was just a dream! It was just a dream! It was just a dream!

Hey dipshit,” interjected Sticky’s imagined voice unexpectedly.

Ryan slowly turned to see his artificial friend laying on the ground nearby, but instead, he only found Éclair’s bloody, severed head talking in its place. Her head lay on its side with the bone sticking out of the flesh from her neck. Blood gushed out from the open wound.

You really think it was just a dream,” said Sticky’s voice from Éclair’s severed head. As the head spoke, Sticky’s voice mixed with that of the Dark Creature’s.

Ryan cried out in pure terror, crawling backwards, and fumbling all over himself. Éclair, startled by Ryan’s screams, summoned her bow and notched an arrow as she rose to her feet, ready for action.

When Éclair saw nothing in the vicinity, she turned to Ryan in confusion and concern. “Ryan! What in God’s name is the matter?”

“I ... I ... I saw,” Ryan muttered, turning to look down at Sticky only to find that the stick figure was there as usual, and not Éclair’s severed head. Turning back to Éclair in horror and embarrassment, Ryan said forlornly, “I think I might be losing it here, Éclair.”

Éclair looked at Ryan in pity, as if he were an injured puppy. Putting her bow down, she walked over and sat next to him. “Just tell me what you saw.”

“Nothing,” declared Ryan resolutely, determined to keep the dreadful omen to himself. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

“It might,” said Éclair pleadingly.

Ryan lowered his eyes, unable to face her. He feared her face would distort into that horrible vision again.

Éclair sighed and continued speaking to Ryan compassionately. “Remember the ship? I may not have told you this, because I didn’t want to alarm you, but you had a vision of the future. A prophetic moment of clairvoyance. It’s what allowed you to save both of our lives.”

Éclair looked down at her hands and twiddled her thumbs uncomfortably, as if the conversation disturbed her somehow. “The gift of Prophecy is usually an ability that is reserved for the Angels. Powerful beings of Light that dwell in secret among the stars. I have heard, though, that the Angels passed on their gifts to a few Demihumans and Elementals centuries ago. And sometimes, someone descended from those Elementals can receive visions. Some have even learned to utilize this ability in battle, seeing a second into their opponent’s future, anticipating their movements. I’ve never seen anyone use it before though ... until you did, Ryan.”

Éclair took in another deep breath, as if steadying herself before asking a favor that she knew that Ryan could not grant. “All this to say, what you may or may not have seen might be a vision of the future.”

“It’s not!” shouted Ryan angrily. And then, in a softer voice, he said, “It can’t be. I won’t let it.”

“Ryan, just tell me what you saw,” she persisted, forcing him to face her.

Ryan broke away from Éclair’s contact. As painful as it was for him, he refused to look her in the eyes as he said in a pleading voice, “I can’t tell you. So please, I’m begging you ... don’t ever ask me again.”

Éclair stared long and hard at Ryan, her keen eyes studying his every gesture and movement.

Heaven only knows what she must be thinking, thought Ryan to himself. She probably thinks I’m totally nuts.

“All right, Ryan,” conceded Éclair. “Then I won’t.”

Grateful for her understanding, Ryan decided to give her something a little more concrete to worry about as a distraction. He’d been meaning to voice these concerns for a while now anyway. “I can tell you that we shouldn’t be here, and not just because it’s a nearly dead planet with weird-looking trees and skies. I’ve been getting an odd feeling, like there’s something wrong with this world. Almost like it ... it’s sick or something. Whatever I saw only confirms that. We need to get out of here as fast as we can.”

“Too bad, though, ” interrupted Sticky’s voice into Ryan’s thoughts. “Youz two was just gettin’ to know each other, too. There might still be time to get a little cozy together.”

Ryan ignored his schizophrenic imagination, and focused on Éclair as she considered what he just said. “On that note, we are in agreement,” she finally assented.

Éclair got up as if to do something. But before she could get too far from him, Ryan took her by the arm. She seemed slightly alarmed by the gesture.

“Look, Éclair,” said Ryan uncomfortably. “About last night ... I...”

Éclair gently extracted her arm from Ryan’s grip. “What was said last night ... I’ll thank you not to repeat it. Any of it to anyone.”

“I would ... I would never-” started Ryan before Éclair cut him off.

“There are a few who know about my past, but I’ve never told anyone about my Godfather before now. And that’s a secret that is perhaps more perilous than my true identity. I hope you understand how much trust I’m placing by confiding in you ... and how much of a burden that comes with that trust.”

Éclair spoke so dramatically, she sounded like nothing less than a warrior goddess from legend. It was a humbling experience for Ryan. No pressure or anything! I just feel like I’ve been told the secrets to all power in the universe.

“I do understand,” replied Ryan as solemnly as he could. “And I appreciate your trust in me.”

Éclair smiled kindly, and her smile made Ryan feel safe once again. Somehow, I already feel better. She was always able to do that. Even with that ... that crazy dream, I can feel myself calming down. I’ll try not to think about it. If I do that, she might forget the whole thing. It was just a dream ... I know it was!

Éclair suddenly knelt down and started doing something strange. She started playing in the dirt, which left Ryan baffled.

“Uh... Éclair?”

“Yes,” said Éclair distractedly as she continued playing in the dirt.

“Um ... You’re playing in the dirt.”

“In a manner of speaking,” she replied politely.

“Is the ... uh ... is playing with dirt going to help?” asked Ryan, a bit of irony sipping into his voice.

“If you listen, it might,” said Éclair, sitting up from her work in satisfaction.

Ryan soon realized that Éclair had made a small map out of the dirt. “Oh, I get it. It’s a map of the area.”

Éclair looked at him mockingly, making him feel uncomfortable.

“You see, I guess I’ve gotten a little spoiled. You know, living in the city for so long. I’m not used to roughing it and ... um ... making maps out of dirt and stuff. I kinda got used to the holograms and the pretty lights during briefings. And, uh ... am I rambling?”

“Incessantly,” said Éclair, though not unkindly. “May I continue with the briefing, or would you like to wait for me to somehow miraculously build you a holographic projection out of bits of rock and wood?”

“Oh! No! No, no, no, no. I like the dirt map. Love it, in fact! It’s very artistic.”

Éclair chuckled mildly before turning to the drawing. “We are here,” she said, pointing to about the center of the circular map. “I’ve surveyed the area within twenty miles of the campsite in every direction.”

Ryan nodded, pretending to be listening while trying to interpret the squiggly line in the middle, wondering if it represented him. I’m not sure how I feel about being represented by a squiggly line. It somehow seems demeaning.

The source of this story is Finestories

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