PrologueMature

We are not alone.
There are forces out there beyond the vastness of space, existing in the realm between life and death. They are called archons, but they have been known by many other names: angels, devils, demons, spirits, ghosts, gods.
Among them, a young girl is thrust into a destiny she does not understand. But she must struggle to determine whom she can trust and whom she must deliver to a fate darker than the blackest night.

Twenty-nine years ago…

The light drizzle hit the side of the old, stone building causing small splashes to burst off its surface. It had turned to autumn just recently, but the cold moved in quickly that year. It caused the rather tall man in the overcoat, taking shelter in the building’s shadow, to hunch closer to the doorway. He didn’t mind being wet, but he had never liked being cold. Not that he had to worry about it much. It was a small effort to shrug off the unwanted sensation. It was as natural as breathing to him.

He looked down at the paper he carried, trying to keep it from the rain, and double-checked the address again. “You better had gotten this right, Laramie,” he sighed.

He pressed against the doorway, not bothering with the handle. It was locked anyway. He pressed harder and was rewarded by the sound of steel rending on the other side. Finally, the door buckled and swung open. It clanged hard against the wall, but Terence Bryce paid it no heed, rushing through the portal and diving inside the building. He came up in a roll, predicting a strike from several directions, but all that met him was silence.

He looked around to find himself in a small empty room. He frowned. He had expected at least some resistance. The man he was tracking was known to have expansive resources and at least a little intelligence about him. Surely, he knew Bryce was coming for him.

Terry Bryce removed his coat and crossed the room, easing the door open into the adjoining hallway to find it similarly empty, though the lights were on.

“Well, somebody’s home,” Bryce said to himself. “You better had gotten this right, Laramie,” he repeated.

He walked cautiously down the hall. His hard-soled shoes struck the floor solidly with each step, but made not a sound. It was a trick of magic Bryce had perfected long ago, and he used it well. When he rounded the corner, he caught the first sign that he was in the right place. Two men were standing guard over a monitoring screen and speaking in hushed tones. Fortunately, their backs were to him.

Bryce closed the distance in a dash, impossibly fast, impossibly silent. His hand struck the first guard with powerful force and a sent a torrent of green mana into his victim. The guard crumpled to ground as Bryce’s attack coursed through him, overwhelming his senses and sending him to dark sleep.

The second guard was more prepared, and reacted with inhuman reflexes. An acolyte.

The acolyte went for his pistol, but Bryce wasn’t about to let him play that game. He collided into him and bore him down using his superior strength and another blast of archonic energy. The acolyte resisted him for a moment, but he couldn’t last long. Bryce had been in the game a long time and had developed a reputation for the power that came naturally to him. Unlike the acolyte, who needed to physically draw a limited reserve of mana from a fallen archon in the world, Bryce was bonded to an archon in the Astral Plane, and could draw upon its mana at will. And he had spent decades strengthening and honing that bond.

The young acolyte before him didn’t stand a chance and fell to the ground, unconscious beside his fallen comrade.

Bryce looked around, expecting reinforcements to press down on him, but there was nothing coming. He frowned again. “What are you about, Mr. Radughi?”

He inspected the monitors that the guards were watching. Several men were down on the floor in various rooms. Then he spotted signs of a struggle on one of the screens. So that’s why no one was left here to stop me. Now, how do I get there? he wondered.

It didn’t take him long to find out. As he walked down the next hall, he heard the scuffle behind the near wall. But that wouldn’t stop him. He summoned the energies again to bust through it, sending mortar and stone flying before him. He should have known what he would see when he looked up again.

The large, blonde man was airborne, hurling through the air horizontally toward a group of guards, twirling as he went. They rained gunfire down on him, but he had summoned invisible fields of energy before him, and their spinning motion deflected the bullets away from him. He careened into the group, scattering those he touched with his fields, and causing the others to back away defensively.

As soon as he landed, he whirled with frightening speed and released a few small knives into the air. With a hum of pale blue energy, they shattered into several sharp shards of metal that fanned out and pierced the guards. Those that were not struck mortally were sent slumping to the ground, overcome by the energy in the enchanted blades. But the blonde man spun again, rolling to avoid the hail of bullets from the other guards. He grunted in pain as he caught a few, but he never stopped moving.

Then Bryce was on them as well, the tall man leaping into the fray in a single archon-fueled bound. He used no weapons, but his powerful strikes carried superhuman strength and were augmented with tiny blasts of archonic energy that threatened to overpower the sense of his adversaries. He punched the first in the face, dropping him instantly, and then kicked another, right into the waiting blade of his newfound ally. The third attempted to take him down, another acolyte that struck with bone-crushing force. But against Bryce’s amplified durability, it only made him mad. He gripped the acolyte by the throat, crushing his windpipe and flooding him with the pure force of his green mana. Despite his violent end, the man died happy.

The End

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