Chapter 5

"This boy!" She cries, "Is a branded one!"

The crowd gasps in unison as they all step away from me.

"This boy has been living on your streets for weeks! While you merely ignored him and treated him as a pariah and some common junk on your streets!" She walks down, grabs my arm, and leads me with her up to the stage.

"I will have compassion on this boy and turn him into a man! He will answer the call to destroy the deep darkness! I will train him and he will be victorious!"

The crowd roars, caught up in the heat of the moment. Soon we leave the stage and the crowd disperses. The woman takes me, with the man who branded me. They bring me to a carriage.

"Who are you and what did you do to me?" I ask, anger burning in my voice.

"My name is Selena," the woman says, "And this is Craig, the one who branded you. What we did for you," she says, giving emphasis, "Is we made you stronger, better, faster and smarter. We gave you the power to control the elements and make the world bow at your feet."

"Why? Now I can't live with my family! You ruined my life!" Red energy is radiating off me and this time I notice. "Why me!" I scream as fire explodes from me.

Selena merely puts up her hand and the fire doesn't touch her or Craig. "There is a branded one as you say, a draken, Karathas. He is quite evil, slaying thousands in the west. We need someone to kill him. The same draken branded Karathas and I, so I can't touch him. This is why Craig is here, he brands recruits for me so that I can train them and send them to kill Karathas."

"So I'm just a pawn in your game?"

"No, you're the hope of humanity at this point."

"I don't care. Don't you understand? You ruined everything!"

"No, I quite understand. Now, get into the carriage, we have places to go."

"I'm not going anywhere with you!"

Selena's eyes narrow "Don't make me do something you'll regret."

"Goodbye!" I call out as I turn to leave.

Suddenly I feel a sudden pain in my neck and I pass out.

~~~~~~~~~~

I awake in the carriage sitting across from Craig and diagonal to Selena.

"You bastards kidnapped me!"

"Calm down, I'd rather you stay conscious during this trip." Selena replies, coolly.

Fury builds in me, as I remain silent, afraid of the consequence of being unconscious again. "So, am I the first of your experiments to go against this branded one?"

"Call him a draken, that's what we really are. And no, you're the fifth." Craig responds. "The other four... didn't quite complete their quest in time."

"They turned into Chimera?"

"Unfortunately, yes."

"Can you tell? I mean, if someone is running out of time to complete their mission, can you tell?"

Selena nods, "Yes, the brand. It's like a watch to us. The smaller it gets, the closer you know that you are to losing all control and becoming a Chimera. It shrinks with time but it also shrinks with every spell that you cast and magic that you use."

"Does it ever grow?"

"Not that I know, I've never seen an instance where it did happen. Except when you complete your mission of course."

"What was your mission?"

Selena looks at me and Craig looks away. "Something important to me and we are not going to discuss it."

"Okay, I won't ask again."

I look out the window of the carriage and see sharp cliffs and jagged mountains. I think about how I would rather be with my family than here. But I have no choice. Especially being a ticking time bomb myself.

As I think about this the carriage stops. The driver comes an opens the door and helps Selena out. Craig gets out, then I do, and when I do, the magnificence takes my breath. In front of me is a giant castle three levels high and probably eight acres wide. Wide mouthed and speechless, I walk into the building and see the grand size of the foyer.

"My goodness, this place is huge!"

Craig smiles, "Glad you like it."

"Show him to his room, he can explore the whole castle when he gets a bearing on his bed." Selena commands.

Craig waves me toward himself and he leads me through a maze of hallways, corridors, and stairs until he leads me finally to my room. Opening the door, I walk in and see a room half as large as the house my family lived in. I leap onto the bed in there and feel spoiled.

"I can't wait when Zane gets to... oh right, never mind."

"Well, I'll be leaving." Craig says as he disappears in the maze.

I lie supine on the bed and stare at the ceiling, thinking about the events of the day and worried about what tomorrow will bring. Will I have enough time to slay Karathas before I turn into a Chimera?

"We'll see," I say to myself, "We'll see."

The End

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