MoboReader> Fantasy > The Ones Who were Chosen

   Chapter 6 Crystal’s Warning

The Ones Who were Chosen By Lady Lilium Characters: 73836

Updated: 2018-07-13 12:02


Lucas was woken early the next Saturday morning by his mobile ringing. He rolled over with a groan, leaning over the rails of his bunk bed.

'Reuben.'

'Hmm?' his brother groaned in the bed below, shifting in his sleep.

'Reuben can you pass my phone?'

Reuben did so, moving in autopilot. Now free from his cast, taken off the night before, he raised himself up easily and took the mobile from the bedside table. He handed it to Lucas; his injury had healed by now also, the deep gashes that had been in his side were gone. Only faint scars remained.

Reuben collapsed back on his bed and went back to sleep as Lucas flipped the mobile open, answering the call.

'Yes Drake?'

'Hey I'm so glad you answered your phone' Drake sang merrily back. 'Are you still in bed?'

'What do you want?'

'I was just wondering why we hadn't met up in so long? We haven't practiced our magic in ages; do you have a new girl in your life or something?'

'Kind of' Lucas replied flatly.

'Really?' Drake answered in surprise, clearly not expecting that kind of answer. 'Did you split with Sian; you know she's apparently expecting you to visit her tomorrow?'

'No' Lucas said, defensively now. 'I didn't split with her. I just…I've found another guardian.'

'Really?' Drake repeated. 'You mean you've found a new guardian and you didn't tell me?'

'She's a little shy.'

'I don't care I want to meet her. Is she cute?'

'Drake.'

'When can I meet her?'

'Drake.'

'I know! I'll see you at your place. Be there in about…an hour?'

'Drake.'

'Alright an hour and a half. I'll see you soon. Bye!'

And he hung up.

Lucas sighed, handing the mobile back to Reuben in the bed below him.

'He's getting more and more like Lauralie by the day.'

'Was that Drake?' Reuben asked opening his eyes and taking the mobile.

'Yeah' Lucas answered. 'He'll be around here soon. He wants to meet Ebony.'

'Oh' Reuben said turning over. 'Wake me up in ten minutes.'

'Are you sure this is a good idea?' Ebony asked nervously, holding her hands before her and scratching at her palms nervously.

'Don't worry' Lucas smiled reassuringly at her as she gave him a worried look. 'Drake is a nice guy. I'm sure you two will get along fine.'

'But what if he doesn't see me?'

'He's a guardian' Lucas said. 'Like me, like Reuben. Of course he will see you.'

'Ok' Ebony said looking down. 'If you say so.'

Pokie flew through the air between them, descending he placed himself into her arms and stared at Lucas in a way that would have been a glare, had the toy been able to do so.

It was shortly after that, there came a knock at the door and Drake entered.

'Hello' he said to the brothers, glancing at one, then the other. And then he looked at Ebony, his face breaking into a smile. 'So you must be the new guardian that Lucas has found.' He strode across the room, weaving his way around the coffee table and seating himself next to Ebony upon the sofa.

'My name is Drake' he said extending a hand. 'What's your name?'

'Ebony' she replied, beaming back at him. 'You can see me?'

'See you?' Drake echoed, raising an eyebrow in confusion. 'Of course I can see you.'

'Ebony is having trouble with being noticed' Lucas explained to Drake. 'She says that people don't see her.' He glanced at Ebony. 'Isn't that right?'

'It is I'm afraid' she said bowing her head shyly. 'Most people seem to look right through me; even my foster parents completely ignore me now.'

'That's terrible' Drake said.

'It's ok' Ebony replied looking up at Lucas. 'I've been feeling much better since I met Lucas. And Reuben' she said glancing at him. 'I've never had such wonderful company before. I've never met anyone before who understands magic like they do.'

Drake frowned at her, biting his lip in thought. 'I've not heard of a guardian being unseen unless by choice. How long has this been happening?'

'Only recently' she said. 'In the last few months or so.'

'That is odd' Drake mused, scratching his chin. 'Do you use magic often?'

'Very rarely' Ebony said. 'And only in small amounts.'

Drake hummed thoughtfully. 'You know I saw several aberrants on my way here' he digressed, speaking to the brothers. 'It was very odd. The closer to the flats I got, the more often I saw them. I must have seen about…six?'

'They are drawn to me' Ebony said.

'Eh?'

'The aberrants' she explained. 'They are drawn to my powers. I don't know why. It's just always been that way. It's been getting worse lately though.'

'Drawn to you…?' Lucas mumbled.

Lucas thought back to that day when they first met. He remembered then seeing an aberrant nearby, just before he saw Ebony. He and Reuben had also seen several near their home since Ebony first started living with them. He understood now.

Pokie then made a move beside her, sitting up and facing this new stranger. Drake's attention immediately snapped to the toy.

'Did I just see that move?' he asked the room.

Ebony lifted the toy, sitting it on her lap, and for the moment the talk about aberrants was forgotten.

'This is Pokie' Ebony explained. 'I used magic to make him come to life, he keeps me company. I made him when I was feeling lonely.'

'I make her happy' Pokie said. 'And no one is taking her away from me.'

Drake gave an uncertain glance towards Lucas.

'He gets a bit jealous' Lucas shrugged lazily

Reuben looked on in silence.

'I have an idea' Drake suddenly declared. 'Why don't we invite over Jacob and Lauralie? That would be fun wouldn't it?'

'Only if Lauralie doesn't come' Lucas droned.

'Why do you want them to come over' Reuben asked.

'Well' Drake wagged a finger at Reuben knowingly. 'One is a guardian, and the other isn't. Maybe we can find out what's happening to you' he said turning to Ebony. 'I'll just give them a call.'

He left the room quickly, taking out his mobile as he did so.

Lucas glanced sideways at Ebony. 'What do you think of him?'

She shrugged. 'He seems nice.'

'I told you you two would get along.'

Ebony shuffled in her seat, fiddling nervously with the hem of her skirt. Pokie was by her side, standing with his front feet leaning against her as if to comfort.

'Are you sure I'm ready for this?' she asked Lucas.

Lucas cocked his head at her. 'They're not going to hurt you.'

Drake returned a moment later. 'They'll be here shortly' he declared. 'They're on their way right now.'

Not long after that there came another knock at the door and Lucas made his way towards it. Reuben, picking up some of Ebony's tension sat rigid in his seat. Drake sat back in his chair thoroughly relaxed, tapping his foot casually.

The door was opened, and in came a beaming Lauralie, and a cautious looking Jacob.

'Awww hai!' Lauralie said bounding in. 'It's so great to see you three. It's been ages!'

Drake and Reuben lifted their heads at them, smiling and nodding in acknowledgment. Jacob entered the room after her, immediately noticing the unfamiliar figure of Ebony. Lucas closed the door behind them.

'Hey Jacob' Lucas nodded to him. 'Did you enjoy your holiday?'

'Oh so now you're ignoring me?' Lauralie protested loudly, turning to Lucas with a glare and her hands on her hips. 'Why are you always so mean to me? Actually I'm surprised you invited me over. I thought you didn't like me.'

'I don't' Lucas said flatly.

She made a face at him, sticking her tongue out and showing him and palm of her hand.

'If you don't have anything nice to say then I'm not going to listen to you' she said turning away from him.

'So how are you guys?' she sang, looking from Reuben to Drake. 'I see you have your cast off Reuben. That must be nice for you. And Drake, how've you been?'

Drake glanced sideways at Ebony who sat silently next to him; she gave him a worried look.

'Guys' Jacob spoke. 'You didn't tell me you had company.'

'This is Ebony' Drake introduced, looking back at Jacob and Lauralie. 'She's a guardian.'

'A guardian?' Jacob repeated staring at the girl dressed all in black. He smiled uncertainly, quiet and reserved when it came to strangers. 'Hello' he said.

Jacob hesitated then as he noticed the toy, hovering in the air beside Ebony. It cocked its head at him, but did not speak.

'My name is Jacob' he said to Ebony. 'We all go to college together.'

'I'm Ebony' she replied, hunching her shoulders and looking down at her lap, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

'That's a pretty name' Jacob replied. 'Is that a stone?'

'Actually it's a wood' Ebony smiled.

'You know I should thank you Drake' Lauralie said to him, completely ignoring Ebony and making no indication that she had noticed her existence at all. 'I was so mad at first when you left me with Diz and Adrian, but I'm not mad anymore. In fact we seem to be getting along quite well.'

'That's strange' Lucas mumbled, glancing at the back of Lauralie's head as she launched into a full speech about all the wonderful things she and the brothers Diz and Adrian had gotten up to since they first met. 'Not only does she seem to be unable to see you' he said to Ebony, 'she seems to be unable to hear any reference to you.'

'I told you' Ebony mumbled sadly.

'What are you guys talking about?' Jacob frowned at Lucas.

'The reason we invited you' Reuben explained to Jacob, 'is because we wanted to know if you could see Ebony, and if Lauralie could see her too.'

'Lauralie doesn't seem to have noticed you' Jacob said to Ebony, furrowing his brow in confusion and glancing at Lauralie as she rambled on, speaking to Drake who smiled back at her, feigning interest.

'I know' Ebony sighed. 'It's why I can't live with my foster parents anymore.'

'That's terrible.' Jacob sympathised.

'I know' Ebony sighed again, resting her chin on the ball of her hand. 'It didn't used to be this bad. But now it seems that the only people who even notice me anymore are guardians.'

'I've never heard of that happening before' Jacob mused.

'Neither have we' Lucas added.

They fell silent then, watching Lauralie as she continued to drone on and on to Drake about the street dancing brothers. Drake appeared to be trying his best to listen, but at this point his eyes had glazed over.

Lucas turned from the room, drifting into the kitchen. Reuben followed after him as Jacob struck up a conversation with Ebony. The brothers left the room to blurred conversation that faded into white noise.

Lucas let out a deep and weary breath, leaning forwards on the kitchen counter and staring vacantly out of the window.

'Are you alright?' Reuben asked him.

Li sniffed the ground furiously, hot on the trail of their prey and feeling more determined than ever to reach the end of the hunt. She lifted her fox-like head, letting out a series of whooping howls. She called her companion to her side. Kreas was there in an instant, he too picked up the scent Li had, and he began to chatter and cackled excitedly. Li led the way, her long legs giving her a wide gallop, Kreas scuttling after her.

They ran through the town one after the other. Crossing busy roads and leaping over cars and over the heads of the people in the town, all of whom were completely oblivious to their presence. They skidded to a halt outside a block of flats. Li lifted her head high, sniffing the air with lips curled up, revealing sharp canine-like teeth. Kreas skulked beside her, hissing through his needle teeth as Li stood rigid beside him with a paw lifted.

'It's here' Kreas hissed eagerly. 'It's very close now.'

Lucas tensed suddenly, seeing through the window two creatures skulking in the alley just below the window. Two creatures he had not seen before, creatures that were not of this world.

Simultaneously the beasts lifted their heads, as if sensing his gaze. They spotted Lucas through the window, snarling silently and running out of sight, heading towards the entrance doors of the flat.

Lucas slowly straightened, backing away from the window; he began to pant, panicking silently inside.

'What's wrong?' Reuben asked, worry laced his tone. He had not seen what Lucas had seen.

Lucas turned to his brother, paling. 'They're coming.'

The explosion caught them completely off guard as the front door was blown inwards. Shards of splintered wood cut the skin of those in the room as they cowered in fear and shock. Ebony lowered her arm she had raised to protect herself, seeing the beasts advancing into the room. She gasped, drawing back in fright. Pokie seeming to have no sense of safety rose higher in the air to get a better look at the new arrivals.

Kreas circled around from behind Li, creeping with his body hunched close to the ground. He screeched joyfully at the sight of Ebony, red eyes pupil-less glaring at her. Li was the first to attack; lunging forwards she snatched the toy Pokie from the air and decimated it. Shaking it violently from side to side, ignoring Ebony's cry of despair. Li dropped the lifeless toy, its spirit now fled, her attention moved to those within the room.

Together the two creatures attacked, targeting two individuals, the strongest and the weakest beings in the room.

Lucas and Lauralie.

Li made a huge jump, leaping in one bound right over the sofa, over the heads of the others and into the kitchen where Lucas stood. She clashed with his defence, teeth striking a hard object that Lucas had summoned by magic, a sort of short lance, glowing blue in colour.

Kreas went straight for Lauralie, but was barrelled sideways by Drake as he ran to defend her, Lauralie shaking and frozen in horror could only watch. She can see, Ebony realised with horror glancing briefly towards her. She can at last see magic.

Drake grabbed the creature by the ears, forcing its small head downwards and away from him; the beast was hissed furiously at him through its teeth. It jerked its head from side to side, seemingly trying to break free. The creature began to spin, turning over and over again in circles, trying to free himself from Drake's grasp. The table in the centre of the room was struck by one of Kreas's flailing limbs, the wood splintered and the glass shattered. Jacob could only watch the struggle helplessly beside Lauralie and Ebony, wishing desperately that his magic would come to him.

In the kitchen Li swung her head again in attack, but was deflected another two times, this time by both brothers fighting now as one.

Kreas pushed Drake to the side once more, then without warning swung his head sharply the opposite direction. Drake's fingers slipped from the ears of the beast and he was thrown back when the creature swung its head back again the other way, hitting him and throwing him to the ground. Drake grimaced, picking himself up off the glass strewn floor. He threw a random spell towards the black creature. The magic struck Kreas on the forehead, but had as much effect it seemed as a fly bite.

'You're weak' Kreas hissed. 'A weak juvenile guardian.'

'It can speak?' Drake breathed in shock and awe.

Behind him Jacob stared transfixed, as if in a trance. Beside him Lauralie clung to his arm, her skin was a sickly shade; on his other side Ebony remained seemingly calm.

Li in the next room had ceased her attacks on the brothers. Instead backing off momentarily, calculating the situation. She began to advance once more into the small kitchen.

'What a surprise' she growled as she formed her words with her canine mouth, 'to find guardians so young, but so strong.'

Lucas narrowed his eyes at the beast. 'What are you?'

'Why, I'm a guardian like yourself' Li gleamed.

'What do you want?' Reuben asked.

Behind them Kreas knocked Drake off his feet again, trapping and bearing down on him joyfully. He pressed a great clawed hand upon his chest, pushing down with all his weight. Beneath him Drake gasped for air.

'We want' Li answered, 'the girl. The one in black.'

All eyes in the room turned to Ebony.

'Or else we kill all of you, and take her anyway' the beast Li finished.

'We start with this one' Kreas hissed, glaring down at Drake, who continued to struggle helplessly beneath his grasp.

Jacob snapped out of his trance then, blinking several times and shaking his head violently.

He moved forward, throwing out his hand. From the centre of Jacob's palm came a fabulously bright blue glowing orb that had no effect whatsoever. The glowing ball of light sailed steadily through the air, and out the window.

Kreas began to laugh hysterically, cackling and howling. The weight he had on Drake lessened slightly, and Drake used this opportunity to free himself. He grabbed a shard of glass from the broken table that lay beside him, holding it tight and ignoring the pain as its sharp sides cut his palm. Slashing wildly at the air above him he cut Kreas at the throat, sending the beast rearing up in pain and shock as blood spilled to the carpet. Caught by surprise it retreated, Drake now able rose to his feet, holding the shard before him like a weapon. Blood dripped to the floor from between his fingers. But he paid this no heed.

'You will pay for that' Li growled as Kreas, surprisingly silent curled up into a ball, nursing his wound carefully and trying to stem the flow of blood. 'You will die now' Li threatened. 'All of you.'

Lucas made a sudden move, flicking back his jacket and plucking from the waist of his jeans a miniature round device, small enough to hold in your fingertips. Li tried to stop him, but her snapping jaws just missed his arm by centimetres. The device struck the floor and exploded in a cloud of thick purple smoke.

Lucas darted past the beast Li, coughing and spluttering, and into the living room where the others were, grabbing just before he left the kitchen the first and only weapon that came to hand.

'Ebony!'

He struggled to fight through the smoke, trying to find her, swiping at the air and stumbling.

'Ebony!'

'I'm here!'

Something grabbed him, something with claws. Lucas instinctively struck out with his weapon and stabbed. It let go of him, hissing like steam coming out of a vent.

'Lucas!'

'Ebony?'

He turned, seeing her there before him.

Drake was on his knees now; he lifted his head, hearing the sound of breaking glass.

Lucas put his arm firmly round Ebony and leapt through the window.

'Quickly!' Li called to her companion Kreas. 'They're escaping!'

The smoke was still thick, though it was dissipating now. Kreas scanned the room, one claw hovering over his left shoulder, over the wound. The brother Reuben still remained in the kitchen, Jacob stood away from the creatures near the corner of the living room, and Lauralie remained frozen where she had been. But two of them where gone. The strongest one and the girl in black.

'They're escaping!' Li howled. 'Hurry Kreas!'

One after the other, the creatures crawled through the broken window after them.

The next Reuben looked up; the smoke was almost all gone, along with the two creatures, Ebony, and his brother.

The aberrant guardian tilted his head to the sky, unfurling his wings at the sound of the cry of the beasts.

It's them!' the red haired guardian Indigo cried. He braced himself. 'Those monsters are after her!'

Shire swung her head round, her blue hair swishing.

'Go!' she called to the aberrant.

Culture took off in a flurry, tearing through the sky as fast as his wings could carry him. The sudden wind created from the downwards thrust of his wings drew the attention of the people in the streets, who wondered where the unexpected gust had come from. Many looked towards the guardians, but they did not see them.

'Where are they Siren?' the Indigo snarled through gritted teeth.

Siren consulted the orb.

'I see it clear…he has her…'

'What?' he rounded on her. 'He's found it before us?'

'No' Siren shook her head, 'it's not them, not the ones we know…it's another.'

'Who is it child?' her mother Shire asked tenderly.

Siren narrowed her eyes ever so slightly, looking down into the swirling light coming from the orb.

Shire placed a hand upon her daughters shoulder.

'Darling girl' Shire told her. 'We cannot waist time.'

'She's in safe hands' Siren reassured. 'Not with the enemy. She goes with Lucas willingly; they are fleeing together the beasts that hunt them.'

'Lucas?' Indigo repeated. 'We must catch them up. We must find her before they do.'

'Where are they Siren?' Shire asked.

She pointed.

'Nearby; in that direction.'

The next few minutes for Ebony were a blur. The wind was strong, and the ground beneath her moved quickly by, at a distance she dared not look to guess.

But soon the change in the wind and the sudden tightness in her stomach told her that she was descending. Her feet touched the ground, and steadying herself, she opened her eyes.

'What happened?' she asked, looking around blearily.

'I don't know' Lucas replied, letting her go. 'I don't know what those things were. I just knew we had to get away.'

'But what about the others?' Ebony voiced. 'What about your brother?'

'My brother can take care of himself, as for the others…well' he shrugged. 'The creatures were only after you…or so they said.' He fell into a silent worry, frowning to himself.

'You're right, they only want me' Ebony reassured him. 'They wouldn't have hurt the others. They have no reason to.'

'Why are they after you?' Lucas asked her. 'Whatever the reason they seem hell bent on it.'

'Well' Ebony spoke slowly, almost teasingly as she gazed past him. 'I suppose we both have secrets we've kept back.'

She turned and walked away from him. Lucas followed.

The tall grass of the field in which they stood swayed and danced as they moved through. A narrow picket fence with a single line of barbed wire ran along to the side of them, sections of the fence were broken and toppled over. What lay beyond was unremarkable, but within the field itself, grew a variety of wild flowers, making the field speckled with colour in the blanket of green.

'Your belt' Ebony said to Lucas who walked beside her. 'What are those devices that you carry?'

Lucas automatically and unconsciously tried to hide them from view.

'They're nothing' he mumbled.

'It was like a smoke-bomb, you used it to help us escape.'

Lucas reluctantly took one of the remaining two from his belt and showed it to her.

It was a curious looking device made of what looked like scrap metal, shaped like a piece of paper that had curled and scrunched up as it blackened in a fire.

'What is it?' Ebony said as she looked down at it.

'Just small things I've been working on' Lucas replied advertently. 'Like a project.' He shrugged. 'You know.'

He tucked it away again.

'Where are we?' Ebony asked, taking in the ambience of the meadow around them.

'We're just outside the town' Lucas replied looking over his shoulder at the buildings nearby. 'I thought it was safer here.'

'I didn't realise we were still so close to home' Ebony mumbled. 'I thought you had taken me far away.' She smiled then, taking a deep breath and stretching her arms high towards the sky. She sighed happily, allowing her body to relax again. 'It feels like we're in the countryside' Ebony beamed. 'It's really beautiful here.'

'I know' Lucas smiled with her. 'My brother and I used to play here when we were younger.'

'In this field?'

'Over the hill' he pointed. 'Just on the other side is a park.'

'It's abandoned?'

'It has been for a while, a bigger one was built within the town itself…and this one was forgotten….'

'I love parks' Ebony said beaming and holding her hands to her chest.

She rushed past him joyfully, brushing the top of the tall grass with open hands as she went, completely unperturbed by the recent series of events.

'Wait!' Lucas called after her.

She paused, glancing back at him.

'What is it?'

'Those things' Lucas began. 'They were after you.'

Ebony's shoulders sank.

'Do we have to talk about this?' she huffed.

'This is what you've been afraid of isn't it? The whole time you knew they were after you.'

Ebony turned back to face him, resigned.

'I've never seen them before.'

'But you know what they are' Lucas persisted.

'Sort of.'

'Sort of?' Lucas crossed his arms. 'Ebony, you need to tell me what's going on.'

'It's me they want' she admitted reluctantly.

'Do you have some sort of connection with them?'

'No, it's nothing like that.'

'Then what?'

She sighed.

'They're after my power. I have…much power.'

'Your power? Are you stronger than other guardians then?'

'Guardian?' Her brow lifted curiously. 'I'm not a guardian.'

'But you said…'

'No. I never said I was a guardian. You called me so many times, but I never said that I was.'

Lucas fell silent as he cast his mind back, thinking of all the days they had spent together, and he realised then that she was right. She had never once claimed to be a guardian.

Lucas raised his head.

'What are you then' he asked her, 'if not a guardian?'

Ebony hunched her body. Her head was bowed avoiding his gaze. She looked for a moment towards the direction of the park, seemingly wishing to be there.

She straightened up then, facing Lucas with confidence, now she answered.

'I'm a philosopher's stone.'

The flat was found easily enough; the aberrant guardian had sensed the direction of the conflict from far away, feeling the magic still in the atmosphere. Now it stood out like a shining beacon to him, though the energy was fading fast.

He soared through the air alongside the block of flats. Seeing a broken window pass by him, he turned in the air, changing course and heading back towards it.

'Lauralie?'

Jacob pushed aside part of the broken table. The shards of wood and glass were everywhere. Reuben moved gingerly, observing the scene of carnage that was the living room. What seemed like mere seconds ago, everything was neat and the atmosphere relaxed and conversational. Now it was all destroyed.

Lauralie sat leaning towards one side of the sofa, now just a curled up shivering ball. Her hands were over her mouth, her knees up, she was shaking and her eyes were wide and unblinking.

'Oh no' Reuben sighed wearily, walking over to her.

Jacob was already sitting by her, his hand hovering over her shoulder, almost as if too cautious to touch her, almost as if he thought she might break if he did.

'What's happened?' Drake whispered, as Reuben bent forwards to get a better look at her, brushing her hair back from her face.

'She's in shock.'

Drake, Reuben and Jacob spun round at the unfamiliar voice. Jacob gasped, drawing back in fear.

'Aberrant!' was his first instinct.

'Aberrant indeed' the guardian purred.

He had been sitting just outside the broken window, holding onto the sill with apparent ease. Now he crawled into the room through the window, straightening up and surveying casually the mess and distress left by the creatures. He had been so silent; none within the room had heard him coming.

'It's you!' Reuben stated.

'What?' Jacob exclaimed. 'You know this thing?'

The winged guardian took a deep and patient breath. Reuben gave a glance to Jacob, and saw he was almost as tense as Lauralie now.

'Hey!' he clicked his finger before Jacob's face. 'Snap out of it! You need to keep it together.'

'Sorry' Jacob blinked, shaking himself. 'I just…I'm fine.'

'Where is your brother?' the elder guardian named Culture demanded.

'I don't know; he just left.' Reuben indicated the window. 'With Ebony.'

'Ebony?' the black guardian frowned. 'Is this a person?'

'She's a girl' Drake told him.

'Then it must be her' the aberrant guardian mused to himself, seeming to forget for a moment that the others in the room existed. 'Do you know where they went?'

'No' Reuben told him flatly.

'Do you know this girl well?' Culture continued.

'No.'

'Then she hasn't told you?'

'Told me what? You're not making sense.' Reuben felt a flicker of anger; it was like listening to someone who was talking in riddles. He forced himself to calm, and decided to take a difference approach.

'You never told us your name.'

'Culture.'

'Culture?' Reuben scoffed. 'That's a weird name.'

Drake gave a sceptical look, but said nothing.

The aberrant looked over Lauralie briefly; it seemed as if she hadn't noticed the aberrant at all.

'So….' Culture went on. 'Which one of you has used magic?'

'Magic?' Jacob gasped. 'How did you know?'

Culture approached Lauralie, placing a hand upon her head as he surveyed her closely.

'I've been a guardian for many years' he said. 'I'm not a fool.'

'A philosopher's stone?' Lucas repeated flatly. 'What on earth is that?'

'A philosophers stone is an alchemical substance, it's said to be capable of turning metals into gold or silver' Ebony explained. 'It can cure any illness, and prolong life, as well as bringing back life.'

'And who can bring back life?' Lucas laughed sceptically. 'I doubt even a god can do that.'

'I can.'

'Have you done it before?'

'No.'

'Then how do you know it's possible?'

She lifted her eyes to him, dark and mysterious they were, as if holding some deeper meaning that Lucas could not understand.

'I just know.' She crossed her arms. 'Tell me, would such beings be hunting me if it were otherwise? To everyone else, I look just like a normal girl. I even fooled you. But to elder guardians, those that are experienced…some of them can sense us.'

'You mean there's more than one?'

'Oh yes. In fact, I think there's another one now' she said turning away.

Lucas blinked uncertainly. 'What? Another one? Where?'

'The park is just over the hill you say.'

'Yeah?'

'Come on' Ebony beckoned jovially. 'Let's say hello to her.'

'Hey wait!'

Lucas ran after her, sprinting to catch up as they headed towards the lip of the hill. Ebony pulled back as they reached the top, Lucas caught her up, panting slightly.

They saw the rolling fields before them stretch into large sections of woodland, and beyond that, another town, though this one was dark and dreary as it sat in the distance.

Within the field before them they saw was the park, a children's playground. There was a rusty climbing frame, a slide, a see-saw, and a roundabout painted in bright colours that were now faded and chipped. The metal beneath was dark and rusted. And where the wood-chippings had been, was overgrown. Now there was grass here, tall and flourishing, like the rest of the meadow, and on a swing in the centre of the playground, rocking gently back and forth, was a girl.

She wore a simple white dress that reached down to her ankles. It was elegant and shapely, matching her long pure white hair that fell freely about her shoulders, lifting in the air as she swung back and forth on the swing. She was young, not quite twenty in age, though she looked older than Ebony. She was beautiful, and slim. She had a natural look about her, and a fine unexaggerated feminine figure.

Her voice as she sang sailed through the air towards Ebony and Lucas. And for a moment they stopped and listened.

'Angels forgiven, rise, triumphant

Gleaming and pure, were greeted

Back were the people, rejoiced, from sorrow

Demons now gone, defeated…'

'What's she doing?' Lucas asked.

'She's singing.'

The strange girl fell into silence.

'Come on' Ebony whispered, 'let's go down to see her.'

Ebony led the way as they headed down the hill, Lucas followed at a few steps behind.

The girl looked towards them as they drew closer, looking not in the least bit surprised to see either of them. It was as she had been expecting them.

The girl dragged her feet on the ground, bringing the swing to a stop.

Ebony halted a short distance from her, smiling shyly. Behind her Lucas remained, feeling suddenly like he should be giving the two girls space, feeling that there was more to this than he really understood. He thought it was wise to keep silent, and hung back to watch.

'That was a beautiful song' Ebony began. 'What's it about?'

The girl in white stared at Ebony for a moment with steely grey eyes, and then she smiled.

'It's a story, of a time where angels and demons lived together, in a world that's long been forgotten.' Her voice was soft and lyrical as she spoke, a soothing and beautiful melody, like her singing. 'The demons were blinded by heavens light, and the angels could not see in the darkness the demons brought with them.' She smiled then. 'The demons were mischievous, and the two creatures, so different from the other, found that they could not live together. The angels chased the demons away, the demons, being lazy, had not cared for their weapons, they became rusted and old. The demons could not fight back, and so, were driven from the heaven the angels called home. The angels rose triumphantly, and were greeted by the people, bringing them out of the darkness the demons had brought onto them. And so, the demons returned to their home in darkness.'

'Did that really happen?' Ebony asked in awe.

'No' the white girl smiled. 'It's just a story.' She rose from the swing. 'It's just a song.'

'My name is Ebony.'

'Yes' the girl spoke, as if she already knew. 'I have felt your presence here for a while now. I was wondering when I would meet you. Another philosopher's stone.' She bowed her head to Ebony in a gesture of respect. 'My name is Crystal.'

'That's a nice name' Ebony sighed.

'So is yours' Crystal replied. 'And I see you've brought a guardian with you' she said looking to Lucas, acknowledging him at last. 'I hope he's not here to hurt us.'

'He's not' Ebony said hastily. 'In fact he's been protecting me.'

'How very noble of you' Crystal spoke to him. She looked away before Lucas had a chance to answer, speaking now to Ebony again. 'But I'm afraid it's too late.'

'Too late?' Ebony repeated looking worried now. 'What do you mean?'

'We are trapped here, can you not sense it?'

Ebony glanced to the meadow around them, stiffening as she suddenly noticed something she had not noticed before.

'You sense it don't you' Crystal said to her. 'There is a net, surrounding this whole town. It was placed there just for us.'

'I don't understand' Ebony begged. 'What is happening?'

A sad look crossed Crystal's expression, and she half turned from them, avoiding their gaze.

'I suppose it's my fault. It was me they were after in the first place, and I've lingered here for too long because I wanted to see you. I have allowed both of us be become trapped.' She sighed. 'But perhaps it's for the best to be caged here. I am so tired of running after all.' She turned back to Ebony. 'You must have run into at least one of them by now…the ones who hunt us I mean. There are two groups searching.'

'I have' Ebony breathed. 'They want to hurt me.'

'I know, but I am the one they were originally hunting. I am the one who draws their attention most. I am older…my powers…stronger.' She lifted her arms and indicated the meadow around her, drawing attention to something Ebony had not yet noticed.

Aberrants. They surrounded the three of them, hiding in the tall grass, peacefully they watched. Ebony saw even larger ones at a distance, some colossal, sitting on the horizon. It was almost as if they were watching over Crystal, like loving parents.

'They are drawn to our powers, more so now that we are together.' Crystal lowered her arms smiling. 'They are thought so often to be evil and dark and sinister, but I find otherwise.'

One of the aberrants approached her, crouching close to the ground in submission. Crystal knelt down to touch it.

It was a small and scrawny looking thing, with sharp spikes protruding from its shoulders and upwards pointing horns protruding from both the heads of the aberrant. It had been hiding in the tall grass, completely concealed from view.

Crystal touched their heads, loving them and petting them like one would do to a domestic dog. The aberrant chattered as if in happiness, flicking its long tail and closing its eyes contentedly. It accepted her touch graciously. Crystal chuckled lightly with joy, straightening up again. The two heads of the aberrant bared their teeth, but it did not look to be aggressive, it looked as if they were smiling at her. The aberrant backed away, retreating to the tall grass. It lay down again in hiding, becoming near enough invisible.

'That is why I've been seeing more aberrants lately' Lucas spoke up. 'It's because they were following you' he said to Ebony, 'and you' he said

to Crystal.

Ebony gave him a nod. 'They've been following me all my life' she explained. 'I can keep them away most of the time, but they've never been far from my side.'

There was an insect that appeared at that moment, a dragonfly. It had emerald faceted eyes and a mechanical body made of many different parts, like that of a ticking clock. Its wings were clear, like glass.

It flitted in the air, darting wildly in different directions just as typical dragons do. Ebony sensed a sort of high intelligence about it, almost to a human level.

Crystal held out her palm, and the insect landed there lightly. It was quite large in size, larger than was natural, and on closer inspection it was clear to see that it was indeed made of metal.

'This is my friend' Crystal explained. 'His name is Cid. He keeps me company. He is like a familiar to me.'

A thought struck Ebony suddenly, and faded as fast as it had come.

No she thought, remembering Pokie sadly. He's gone now.

'He only lives, because of my magic that keeps him alive' Crystal went on, speaking about the mechanical dragonfly. 'If I were to die, then so would he.'

The dragonfly darted off again, as if sensing her dark thoughts. It was gone in an instant to who knew where, quickly vanishing from sight.

'Cid has been my friend for a long time' Crystal went on, 'he keeps a look out for me.'

She gasped suddenly, eyes darting over their heads and towards the direction of the town. Becoming suddenly tense and without explanation, she turn-tailed and ran, her movement smooth and graceful. Her long white hair swished and her long white dress trailing after her as she ran. She disappeared in the trees of the forest nearby.

'Where is she going?' Lucas spoke up.

'She's hiding' Ebony replied.

'From what?'

'I don't know.'

It was then Ebony noticed that the aberrants were gone too. Slinking away in the tall grass or fleeing into the trees as Crystal had. Even the larger ones on the horizon had vanished.

Lucas glanced around nervously, perhaps at the feeling of being suddenly so alone, and the fear of whatever was coming.

'You say you have strong powers?' Lucas began, still looking cautiously about them.

'Yes' Ebony replied.

'Then how come you've never used them before? And why don't you try to protect yourself? Why didn't you keep back those creatures that attacked us?'

'Because I can only use my own magic in very small doses, my true power lies inside' she said touching her heart. 'In a place I cannot reach.'

'What good is that?'

'Very little it seems' Ebony admitted. 'I envy other guardians sometimes. I mean…what use is it to have this magic if you cannot even use it?'

'How do you know you even have this magic?'

'Instinct' Ebony replied. 'I can feel it inside me. I know what I am. The fact that aberrants follow me is proof enough.'

Lucas looked past her and towards the forest Crystal was now hiding in.

'If you have all this magic then how do you use it?'

'I can't' Ebony told him. 'My magic can only be obtained by another, after I die.'

'What?'

'If I am killed, the philosophers stone that is hidden inside me appears…no…it's like my very flesh is made from this property. It becomes this stone.'

'Then how do you know this?' Lucas asked curiously, 'if you have never died?'

Ebony turned away from him. 'Because my sister, my dear sister I watched die in the hands of guardians that hunted her. They hunted her with the same intent as those that hunt me now.' Ebony cast her mind back, regret and sorrow filled her heart. 'Her body vanished' she spoke quietly, 'leaving behind a stone. I remember seeing it, it was bright pink.' She lifted a hand to her face, touching a finger to her eye. 'My foster parents always wanted me to hide this, back in the day before I became unseen to them.' Ebony removed the contact lenses from her eyes, flicking them away, lost forever in the tall grass. 'I suppose there is no point in hiding them now.' She turned.

Lucas gasped at the sight of her, taking a small step back. Her eyes now were an unnatural bright pink shade.

'Philosophers stones all have eyes like these' Ebony indicated. 'My sister had eyes like these, it's one of the reasons she was so easily caught. Since then, I've hidden them from the world.'

Lucas was speechless, as the information slowly began to sink in.

'More guardians try to hunt my kind than those that try to protect. It's the power we hold that they seek.'

'I have no desire for such power' Lucas whispered.

'Then you are one of the few' Ebony replied sadly.

'So you've been hiding all this time?'

'Yes' she smiled sadly, 'but now, because of you, I'm slowly learning that the world is not such a cruel place after all. There are good people in it.'

Three figures materialised into the scene at that point, as if in answer to her words. They surrounded Ebony and Lucas, like three points of a triangle. Ebony glanced around at them, instinctively she moved closer to Lucas who braced himself, thinking immediately dark thoughts of attack.

One of the three, a younger girl with long blue wavy hair, held a sort of orb in her hands.

'It's her' she said simply.

Lucas placed a hand on Ebony's arm, pulling her closer to him.

The other female, a woman also with blue hair broke her formation. Shire moved to stand with her daughter Siren, as if to show that they meant no harm. Lucas saw a potential escape route, though didn't move. Not just yet.

'What about this one?' Indigo asked Siren, glancing at Lucas.

He had light skin and pea-green eyes, with black rooted fiery red hair spiked backwards. He had two lines of black tattoos, each running from below his eyes, down his cheeks and down his neck and chest. He wore a hoodless black cloak covered in chains and links. He had the stance and demeanour of a born leader.

'These are the ones I've been seeing' the young guardian named Siren told him, clutching the orb she carried in both hands. 'After all this time' she said, 'they are finally found.'

Indigo flicked a section of his red hair back, placing his hands on his hips and swaying casually on the spot.

'Tell me kids, what are your names?'

Lucas didn't answer; he just glared suspiciously, resenting being referred to as a juvenile.

'Ok, then tell me this' the Indigo said, speaking directly to Lucas now. 'Why are you sharing company with a philosopher's stone?'

'Wait' Siren interrupted. She consulted the orb. 'The other one is nearby.'

'What?'

Indigo rounded on her. 'Are you sure?'

'Positive' Siren replied.

'Well…' Indigo mumbled to himself. 'This certainly is interesting….Stop!'

Lucas had grabbed Ebony by the wrist and yanked her with him as he ran; breaking for the gap Shire had left. But Shire was there in an instant to stop them; blocking their path she materialized herself before their very eyes by magic.

Lucas backed away from her, pulling Ebony with him.

They were trapped, with no hope of outrunning three elder guardians. They were at their mercy.

The trail the philosophers stone had left had been hard to find, and even harder to follow, but the beasts had found it eventually. Li held back, lips curling in a silent growl of frustration. Li saw her target, the philosophers stone dressed in black, with the young male who protected her, Lucas. Inexperienced as he was, it was easy pickings. She was about to approach, when others suddenly appeared, materializing around the younger ones, transported by their magic. Three other guardians, elder ones, the ones they had been fighting.

They were outnumbered.

'They got there first' she tensed, 'so sly, they got here before we did.'

'Aaarrrggg.'

Li turned back to Kreas.

'What the hell is wrong with you?'

Kreas caressed his arm tenderly; still sticking out of his left shoulder was a handle. In their haste to chase after their prey, he had not had time nor chance to remove it yet.

'He stabbed me with a potato peeler' Kreas hissed. 'That young guardian…dam him.'

'Stop your whining.'

Li slunk back from the top of the hill; she had been crouching, hiding there in the long grass. Out of sight now of the others she stood tall again, joining Kreas as he pawed at the thing stuck in his shoulder. Li grabbed the handle with her teeth, jerking it backward sharply and throwing it away. Kreas recoiled as she did this, but did not make a sound. He turned his head to lick the wound, cleaning the blood away.

'Come on' Li said. 'We'd better tell our master.'

'What news we have' Kreas cackled straightening.

'Indeed' she agreed. 'She has been found, but not the one we were originally looking for.'

'Two philosopher's stones!' Kreas sniggered cruelly. 'What fun…what power.'

'Our master is far now and travelling fast. We must be swift to catch him. Can you run Kreas?'

'I can run faster than you can' he sneered. He had finished cleaning the injury.

'Then let us not argue about it then.'

They left the scene, heading back swiftly towards the centre of town to find their master.

'Do not be afraid' the red haired guardian said, 'my name is Indigo. And we pose no harm.'

'What do you want with her?' Lucas demanded.

'To protect her.'

'You're lying.'

'We're telling the truth' Indigo persisted. 'If we had wanted to harm her, I would not waste my breath on explanations.'

'I think he's telling the truth' Ebony muttered into Lucas' ear. 'I told you didn't I? I told you there are those who wish to protect me.'

'Tell me child' Indigo continued speaking to Ebony, 'what is your name?'

'Ebony.'

'And what a beautiful name it is too.' He put a hand to his chest. 'I am Indigo, and these are Shire and Siren' he indicated the elder guardians that stood nearby. 'They are mother and daughter.'

Shire smiled back at Ebony and Lucas. Siren remained impassive.

'They do look very similar don't they?' Ebony said offhandedly, still sticking close to Lucas. 'Except the eyes' she said to them. 'You have very different eyes.'

Shire's were burnished gold and yellow. Siren's were light and misty blue.

'Tell me' Indigo asked Ebony. 'Have you run into other beings. Those that hunt you?'

'Yes' Ebony answered. 'Two creatures, one black and smaller, and the other tall and dog-like.'

'It's them' Shire curled her lip in disgust.

'It looks like you've gotten yourself into a bit of a scrap.' Indigo said to Lucas, indicating his torn clothes and the scratches and nicks over his body. 'And what's this?' he asked, glancing to Lucas' back, where there were the two vertical slits torn in his shirt, side by side and perfectly straight.

'It's nothing' Lucas grumbled, avoiding the subject.

'Don't worry' Indigo said getting back on topic. 'You're safe with us now, they won't attack if they're outnumbered.'

'How do you know this about them?' Lucas asked suspiciously.

'Because we've fought them before' Indigo replied. 'Where was it you met them?'

'At my home.'

'Your home?' Indigo was suddenly alarmed. 'What about your family? Are they safe?'

'I don't know, my brother was there, and three of our friends.'

Indigo nodded. 'Shire will see to them, just tell us where you live.'

Lucas gave the address, explaining briefly how to find the place, and Shire bowed her head respectively.

'I will see that they are well' she spoke politely.

'Thank you Shire' Indigo said eagerly. 'Now go.'

Shire turned on the spot and strode away; she vanished into thin air, fading before their very eyes.

'Aren't we going back to see if they're ok?' Lucas asked.

'In time' Indigo replied. 'First, I want to find out more about this fascinating creature' he said looking at Ebony. 'Tell me' Indigo went on, distracting himself momentarily and speaking now with some level of amusement to Lucas. 'How did one such as yourself become so close to a philosopher's stone? I hear they are very shy by nature, and suspicious of most people.'

Reuben stood by the broken window gazing outwards, shoulders slumped.

Lucas, my brother…where are you now?

Behind him the aberrant Culture still observed Lauralie, kneeling before her and muttering inaudibly under his breath. Drake sat quietly beside them on the sofa, Jacob on her other side was standing. They both watched Lauralie sadly.

'Is there anything you can do for her?' Jacob asked. 'Will she be ok?'

'Not if she doesn't receive help' the aberrant replied. He stretched his wings, Jacob stepped back as one drew closer to him.

'What kind of help?' Drake asked.

'The kind of help only a guardian can offer' the aberrant replied. 'Magic has done this to her, and only magic can save her.'

Another figure materialized suddenly into the room without warning. All eyes turned to her, Drake slowly straightened up at the sight of the blue haired woman. She was tall, with very pale skin and burnished gold eyes.

Reuben turned at the sound of the magic as she appeared, he moved away from the window, giving the strange woman a sceptical look.

'Who are you?' he asked.

'Shire' the blue haired guardian replied shortly without looking at him.

Her attention shifted to Lauralie, who was still stiff and pale where she sat. Her eyes were glazed over, and she appeared to be completely unaware of her surroundings or anyone in the room.

'What is the girl's name?' Shire asked as she approached, kneeling before her.

'It's Lauralie.' Drake said.

'Lauralie.' Shire spoke her words calm and clear. 'Lauralie. Can you hear me?'

'She's unresponsive' Culture replied.

Lauralie was sweating, her skin was clammy and her shallow breathing was rapid. Shire touched her at the neck and wrist.

'Her pulse is weak and fast' she said. 'The girl's hyperventilating; she's entered the second stage of shock.'

'Compensatory?' Culture asked.

'Yes' Shire said rising to her feet. 'If she enters the progressive stage, the damage may be irreversible.'

The aberrant grimaced suddenly, rising and turning his back on the others, clutching his chest as he moved away.

'Are you alright?' Shire worried.

Culture groaned, still holding himself. His body hunched over. 'It hurts…' he whispered. '…with every heartbeat…'

The pain seemed to subside, for the aberrant's body relaxed again, and he let out a deep breath.

'Is Lauralie going to be ok?' Jacob repeated, more urgently now. 'Can't you do something?'

'There is a way.' Shire mumbled. She spoke to Culture. 'You know what it is.'

Culture lifted his dark eyes to her. 'Are you prepared to do it?' he asked solemnly.

'She is…the one I've been waiting for' Shire glanced to Lauralie. 'Perhaps it is fate' she whispered. 'I am willing to save her' she spoke louder now to the others in the room. 'But she will not be the same if I do.'

'Do whatever you have to' Jacob urged, brushing Lauralie's auburn hair back tenderly. 'Please, just save her.'

Shire nodded. 'Don't be afraid' Shire soothed. 'Everything is going to be alright.'

'What are you going to do?' Jacob asked nervously. 'How can you save her?'

'By passing on my magic.' Shire touched Lauralie in the centre of her chest, right above her heart. 'She will be just like you.'

A white light grew, gradually engulfing the entire room and all within, before fading again completely.

Reuben blinked as his eyes adjusted to the regular light once more. The aberrant Culture rose to catch the blue haired woman as she stumbled backwards, suddenly overcome with fatigue. Culture guided her to the armchair and sat her down. She slumped, closing her eyes and resting.

'She will take some time to recover' Culture said absently.

'And Lauralie?' Jacob asked.

'…Will be alright now' Culture finished. 'Rest will return her to her usual self.'

It was true now that Lauralie was already looking better. Her breathing had returned to normal, and the colour was slowly coming back to her cheeks. She appeared now to be only sleeping.

Jacob let out a deep sigh of relief.

'You better watch your backs' Culture warned them all. 'There is still danger out there. Don't assume that this is over just yet.'

Jacob raised his hand before his face, summoning into existence a ball of light. He played with it, twirling it between his fingers with ease.

'Put your magic away' Reuben hissed. 'It's magic that did this to Lauralie.'

'It's ok' Jacob said absently. 'She is one of us now.'

Drake turned his head curiously towards him. 'Jacob?'

'Don't call me that' he said, staring at the light in his hand mesmerized. 'My name' he continued, closing his palm and cutting off the magic, 'is Venom.'

'Two philosopher's stones?' the master repeated.

Kreas tittered to himself, listening with pleasure and anticipation as the news was delivered to their master.

'Are you sure of this?' their master asked, speaking to Li.

'Positive master' the beast replied. 'I saw them with my own eyes, we both did.'

'Two of them' Kreas sniggered in agreement. 'One white and one black.'

'This is interesting.'

'Does it change anything?' Kreas asked.

'It does' the master replied coolly. 'Now we hunt two, instead of one.'

'But what about the other guardians?' Li asked her master. 'They have the black one.'

'Have they taken her to the Ancient World?' the master asked.

Li shook her head. 'I can't be sure.'

'But the white one' Kreas interjected quickly. 'She is still free.'

'Then we will find her' the master said.

'It is likely that the other guardians will remain here' Li said, 'until they have both of the philosopher's stones.'

'Then we had best be quick' the master said. 'We need to…up our game.'

'The black philosopher's stone seems to have an attachment to one of the young guardians' Li told him.

The master nodded.

'I want you to find them. Keep an eye on them, and strike when you have the chance. Strike when the elder guardians drop their guard. I want you to get the black philosophers stone back.'

'We will watch the young guardians' Kreas hissed. 'We will not fail.'

'Be sure that you don't' the master warned. 'Do what needs to be done. Whatever the cost. We cannot fail Lagoon. He would not be pleased.'

The small group walked slowly through the tall grass of the meadow, moving gradually away from the town in no particular direction. The area grew more open the further away they walked, and they passed easily over the broken picket fences and the strands of barbed wire that curled and twisted in the grass.

'So tell us more about this second philosopher's stone' Indigo said, after hearing the story Lucas had told about how he and Ebony had first met.

'I already told you' Ebony sighed. 'We only talked to her briefly, she ran off just before you guys arrived. She seemed very frightened when she realised you were about to turn up.'

'She knew we were coming before we arrived?' Indigo asked.

'She did' Ebony replied, glancing sideways at him.

Indigo pondered at this, humming thoughtfully to himself. 'She must be a sharp one in that case. No wonder it's been so hard to find her.'

'Anyway' Ebony continued. 'Wouldn't I be the second philosopher's stone if she was the one you were originally looking for?'

'I suppose' Indigo smiled. 'She has been eluding us for a while now. You on the other hand seemed to come from nowhere.' He paused. 'It's so unusual to find two together, such rare creatures that you are.'

Lucas and Ebony led the way with Indigo walking slightly behind, Siren followed after them several steps after, still clutching her orb firmly in her hands.

'Did you see which way this other philosopher's stone went?' Indigo asked, trying his best to sound casual.

Lucas glared suspiciously at him at this.

'Oh…I don't know' Ebony shrugged distractedly.

'Pleeeze' Indigo whined. 'This is reeelly important.'

'Why?' Ebony demanded turning on him. 'What do you want from her?'

'She needs to be protected' Indigo replied.

'I don't think she needs your protection' Ebony told him, 'nor would she want it. I think perhaps she just wants to be left alone.'

'Why, do you know her?' Indigo asked slyly.

'No.'

'Then how do you know what she would want?'

Ebony crossed her arms stubbornly. 'Because I feel the same' she said.

Indigo scowled at her. 'If her power gets into the wrong hands…'

'What are you planning to do with her if you find her?' Ebony asked him. 'And now that you've found me, what do you plan to do?'

'You need to be taken to the Ancient World' Indigo replied. 'You would be safer there.'

'I am just as safe here as I would be there' Ebony argued.

'No, you'd be amongst friends there.'

'Friends?' Ebony stopped and looked to the sky, seeing a flock of geese flying in formation overhead. 'I have never known what's it's like not to be alone.'

The others paused then.

'You will be safer in the Ancient World' Indigo persisted. 'There are more guardians, there is more magic. You would be protected there, understood.'

'In a world where there are more guardians who want to hurt me, ' Ebony sighed. She continued walking, the others followed suit. Lucas beside her was completely silent now, and Siren continued to stare into her orb as she trailed after them.

'At least in this world fewer people know about me' Ebony went on.

'We can't leave this kind of power simply wandering around' Indigo went on. 'Do you have any idea of the consequences if you were found by the wrong people?'

An image flashed in Ebony's mind then of a girl she once knew and loved. Her sister, screaming for Ebony to run, before she was slaughtered so violently before her very eyes.

'……Yes' Ebony murmured, slowing to a stop again. 'I do.'

Indigo hesitated. 'Then I suppose you'd know in that case how important it is that we return both of you to the Ancient World where you belong.'

'I belong here' Ebony replied dreamily, as if she were only half-listening.

'Where is she?' Indigo demanded, his tone losing patience now.

'You won't find her' Ebony said simply. 'If she's managed to hide from you all this time then you will struggle to find her now. She's older than I am, and so much more experienced.'

'You will tell me.'

'I won't' Ebony droned, turning away and crossing her arms, an action that seemed to infuriate him even more.

'You will not play this game with me' Indigo began, raising his voice and taking a step towards her.

In an instant Lucas put himself between them, shoving Indigo in the chest and pushing him back.

'Stay away' he ordered, nearly shouting.

'Indigo' Siren barked suddenly, speaking up for the first time as Indigo made a move to step forwards. 'You will not frighten her; she is scared enough as it is.'

Indigo glared at all of them, shaking his head in exasperation.

'Foolish children' he huffed storming away, though he didn't go far.

'I'm sorry Ebony' Siren told her in a soothing voice. 'We truly mean you no harm. But we have been searching and travelling for so long, we are all tired and weary.'

Ebony smiled at her. There was something about this girl that calmed her, that made her feel at ease.

Siren beamed back, consulting her orb again. Within it she saw a handsome character dressed in leather, his black hair spiked forwards.

'Do you know someone called Venom?' she asked suddenly, speaking to Lucas.

'Venom?' he hesitated.

'Jacob?' Siren offered.

'Is he ok?' Lucas asked her nervously.

'Don't worry' Siren reassured him. 'He is well. I can see him now.'

'What about my brother?'

'Hmm' Siren hummed. 'What does he look like?'

'So are we just going to sit here like this and do nothing?' Venom argued to Reuben.

'It's not safe to leave.'

'It's not safe to stay.'

Reuben glared at him. 'You think I don't want to try to find my brother? I wouldn't even know where to begin.'

They were still in the flat, and Reuben lost for anything else to do had tried to tidy the place as best he could, just to keep his mind occupied. When he had finished, he grew quickly bored, and restless. He stood by the broken window now, staring out in case he saw his brother. He swallowed the lump in his throat.

'The creatures won't come back here' Culture said off handed. 'It's the girl in black that they seek.'

Venom sighed and covered his face with a hand. 'How do we know Lucas and Ebony are not in danger?'

'Indigo is likely to be with them by now' Culture replied. 'So is Siren.'

'They are your friends I assume?' Venom asked turning to him.

'I would try to find them myself' Culture spoke up, 'but I'm not feeling well.' He unconsciously touched his chest as he said this. 'And besides' he continued, 'I don't want to leave Shire alone.'

'Jeez, I only came here to meet Ebony' Venom huffed.

Reuben brushed the curtain back slightly.

'It's getting dark outside.'

He moved away and sat in one of the cushioned seats.

Several minutes of silence passed, and Reuben's mind began to wander as he stared blankly at the wall.

White…hmm, not a bad colour………I suppose you can mix white with any colour in a room….easy to get dirty though, I guess that's why doctors wear it, do nurses wear white? My dentist does…

'Hey!' Venom shouted. 'I'm talking to you, are you listening to me?'

'Be quiet' Reuben hissed. 'You'll wake them up' he said indicating Shire and Lauralie.

'We should go out and look for them' Venom said. 'We should do that at least.'

'Look for them where?' Reuben laughed flatly. 'They could be anywhere; they could be one hundred miles away for all we know. This town is large enough, and besides….' Reuben added in mumble, 'I don't think Lucas wants me around right now…'

'Then what should we do?' Venom continued in a hushed voice.

'Stay here and wait' Reuben said in a tone that suggested the end of the discussion.

Venom turned away, and Reuben became quickly distracted again.

Lucas left his mobile behind…. Reuben thought seeing it on the floor. I guess he didn't get a chance to pick it up in the rush…

'In the meantime' Reuben continued speaking to Venom, 'why don't we watch….oh that's right we sold the TV. I wouldn't worry' Reuben waved as if this didn't matter, 'I'm sure they're both fine. Culture did say that Indigo and Siren are probably with them now…whoever they are…'

'And that's a good thing?' Venom asked, raising his eyebrow as he glanced towards Culture, who stared mutely back at him, his large leathery wings folded behind him.

Reuben turned to look at Culture also, before facing Venom again.

'Culture has been good to us' he said. 'I think we can trust his friends to be good too.'

Venom folded his arms, not entirely convinced.

'I sure hope your right' Venom sighed.

They lapsed into silence, as the minutes began to tick away.

Both the blue haired woman, and Lauralie slept heavily now, showing no signs of waking any time soon. Drake had been watching over Lauralie for the last several minutes, having not spoken for a while. No doubt his thoughts were clouded with worry.

'Are you alright?' Drake said suddenly, speaking to the aberrant.

'Hm?' Culture looked up.

'You said that your heart hurts' Drake told him.

'Yes' Culture said, avoiding his gaze then. 'It does.' He sat in one of the armchairs in the room, resting with his elbows on his knees, leaning forward to give space to his large wings.

'What's wrong?' Drake asked him.

Culture took a deep breath, answering only reluctantly after several moments.

'I am getting old' the aberrant confessed. 'My heart is failing.'

'Old?' Drake repeated. He took at every detail of the aberrant's face.

Despite the coal-black skin, the aberrant could have been called handsome. His face was slim and looked young, and his skin was utterly perfect. His appearance suggested that he was barely over twenty. And his bare chest was lean and his arms were muscular.

'I don't understand' Drake said.

'Aberrants have a far shorter lifespan than humans do' Culture droned. 'They grow fast and die young.'

'How old are you?' Drake said, 'if you don't mind me asking.'

'Twenty four.'

'Is that all?'

'Yes' the aberrant nodded glumly. 'I am nearing the end of my life. Most aberrants don't live past twenty five, and my heart has gotten worse day by day, but there is nothing to be done about it.' He sighed deeply. 'I only pray I live long enough to return to the Ancient World.'

'I assure you, all four of them are fine' Siren repeated yet again. 'I promise my powers do not lie.'

'Even my brother?' Lucas insisted. 'Is he fine too?'

'Yes' Siren chuckled in amusement. 'Even that Lauralie you love so much.'

Lucas drew back hesitantly, giving her an uncertain look.

'I'm joking' Siren laughed, touching Lucas' arm in reassurance. 'I know you find her tiresome.'

'Annoying is more the word' Lucas finished.

'Anyway' Ebony interrupted; her tone exasperated as she threw a disapproving look towards Lucas. She spoke to Siren. 'Tell me about the Ancient World.'

Siren gleamed kindly. 'If you do come with us to the Ancient World, I want you to come through your own choice.'

She knelt, sitting in the grass that now reached her eyelevel.

'Please, sit with me.'

She placed the orb in her lap as Lucas and Ebony sat, facing each other they formed a triangle. Hidden by the tall grass, only the tops of their heads could be seen. Ebony noticed briefly the figure of Indigo, facing them a short distance away. He was leaning back against one of the old posts that made up the broken fence, arms crossed and looking glum.

'The Ancient World' Siren began, 'is a wonderful place. There are no huge cities made of metal, no cars or pollution. Their cities are made of stone, and are utterly outstanding. The land in the Ancient World is by far more open, and more land is given to the wildlife, you can travel for miles in one direction and see nothing but wilderness. If you go in another direction, you will see the most fabulous towns.' Siren paused for a moment, gazing down at her orb. She lifted her head and continued. 'The city, the capital, is built of faded grey stone, with narrow streets and lines of houses as far as you could walk. It is built near the coastline, and the palace at its centre is the grandest building that I have ever seen.'

'I knew there were other worlds out there' Lucas said triumphantly. 'My brother thought the same.'

'Well you were right' Siren agreed. 'Both of you.'

'How many worlds are there?' Lucas asked.

'That we know of? Three. This world, the Ancient World, and the Aberrant World.'

'Aberrant World?' Ebony echoed.

'It is a cold world' Siren explained, 'and desolate, or so it first appears. All aberrants originally come from that world.'

'Then how do they appear in this world?' Ebony asked Siren.

'There are some aberrants that can use magic' Siren told her. 'Like Culture.'

'Who's that?' Lucas raised an eyebrow at the name.

'The winged guardian you found in the skate park' Siren said to Lucas. 'He told us all about that. He originally came from the Aberrant World. Many aberrants who can wield magic leave portals open for other aberrant who cannot.'

'Portals?' Lucas leant forwards eagerly.

'It's how guardians travel from one world to another' Siren told him. 'It seems you still have a lot to learn.'

'Where are these portals?' Lucas asked Siren.

The portals are in fixed places, so you have to find them before you can open them, that can sometimes be tricky. Only those that can wield magic can open a portal to another world.'

'So I could open a portal?' Lucas asked excitedly.

Siren mused. 'Perhaps, you are still young as a guardian, and I don't know much of your powers or abilities, but it is more than likely.'

Lucas nodded as her words sunk it, trying hard to suppress his excitement.

'I have a question' Ebony asked Siren' How is it that people without magic cannot see us?'

'Magic is a strange thing' Siren spoke, 'and I'm afraid we don't fully understand it, even now.'

'But guardians can be seen by others who don't have magic' Ebony went on. 'Yet I cannot.'

'Is that so?'

'When I was younger, my foster parents barely noticed me. But now, they don't see me at all.'

'You've matured' Siren explained. 'You are an extremely powerful creature. You are bound to become unseen by the non-magic as you grow older. Guardians though are not as powerful. They can be seen by others, but not the magic that they use. If a normal person does see magic, then it drives them mad. Many believe there is a seal on this world, so magic cannot be seen.'

'I suppose that make sense' Ebony admitted. 'But why are aberrants attracted to us?'

'I don't know' Siren replied. 'I don't think anyone does. We only know that aberrants are drawn to philosopher's stones. That's why we brought Culture along.' A smile tweaked her lips. 'You have very beautiful eyes by the way' she said to Ebony. 'They are very unusual.'

They were interrupted suddenly by Indigo. He stood over them now, arms crossed.

'We should go back to your home' Indigo said moodily to Lucas. 'We should see how your friends are doing.'

They stood in formation facing inwards. Siren cast her hand out and used her magic to transport the four of them back to Lucas' home.

When Lucas opened his eyes, blinded momentarily by the white light of the spell, he barely had time to re-orientate himself before a figure rushed to him. Reuben embraced his brother tightly, whispering words of relief and reassurance into his ear. Lucas in turn, held him back instinctively. Drake and the newly christened Venom both rose as the group materialized into the living room. Discussions began in a murmur between the elders. Shire still slept, and Culture explained to Indigo what had happened, glancing towards the young Lauralie as he did. Siren touched her mother's cheek tenderly. Worry etched in her face.

As the hours wore on, and the sky darkened to almost pitch black, Drake and Venom decided to go home.

'I can't stay here' Drake said. 'I've got to go home, I'm visiting Eleanor tomorrow, and the train leaves early.'

'Are you going to be alright?' Lucas asked the both of them.

Venom gave him a bemused look. 'I am a guardian' he said confidently. 'My powers have finally come to me.'

'You have to understand' Lucas warned him, 'that there are still dangers out there.'

'Then I can give as good as I get' Venom laughed. 'And anyway, Drake will accompany me half the way.'

'Just be careful' Lucas told them, as Ebony shyly waved them goodbye from behind Lucas.

'We will' Drake said.

'Do me a favour and text me when you both get home, just so that I know you're safe.'

The two agreed only reluctantly. They said their goodbyes and Lucas watched them as they left. Retreating back into the apartment he propped the newly fixed door back in its place. It had been badly damaged by the creatures, but the elder guardians had helped him fix it as best they could.

Inside the apartment now, the mood was subdued. Everyone was quiet, except for Culture and Ebony, who spoke eagerly together in hushed voices.

No doubt he's drawn to her like the other aberrants are Lucas thought. Just like Siren told us.

He received a text on his phone some minutes later from Drake and Venom, telling him they had returned home safely.

Lucas placed the mobile back in his pocket.

'It's late' he said to his brother. 'I'm going to bed.'

'What about the others?' Reuben asked, indicating the elder guardians and Lauralie.

Lucas glanced at them.

'We're staying here' Indigo clarified. 'It's comfortable, if not a little chilly.' He glanced to the broken window as he said this.

Lauralie was still fast asleep, and Siren stayed close to her mother, who still rested.

'Well I guess I can't make you leave' Lucas sighed, 'even if I could be bothered to try. I suppose Lauralie's to stay too?'

'She needs the rest' Siren voiced. 'Her body and mind have suffered a great strain.'

Lucas turned from the room, waving Siren away dismissively; too weary by the day's events to answer. He slouched down the corridor to his own bedroom, Reuben trailing after him, and Ebony following them headed to her own room once belonging to their mother. Collapsing on his bunk in the clothes he still wore, Lucas began to drift quickly off to sleep, before being abruptly woken by his mobile receiving a text.

It was from Sian.

Will I be seeing you tomorrow?

Lucas groaned in frustration, dumping the mobile off the edge of the bed and rolling over to face the wall.

He began to drift off again, until he was deep in his dreams.

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