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Chapter 10

He stood naked in a small clearing surrounded by an overgrowth expanse of green trees. Not sure how long he had been standing there waiting, or for whatever he was waiting for, but he felt he must continue to be patient. Before him, in the warm morning air, was built a low white marbled altar with a fire pit carved in the center of the smooth surface. A cord of wood was stacked neatly among the burning embers feeding the small flames. The blackness of the curved depression indicated fires had been started and burnt on the altar for an untold number of years. A small black spider ran out from within the flames and scurried down the altar. He lost sight of it in the tall grass and thought the whole event seemed rather odd.

He gazed upwards at the rising sun shielding his eyes with his left hand. The light felt warm against his skin and he felt idyllic. Something was missing though, he felt he had to be somewhere and meet someone, but time was running short. If he could even remember who he was maybe, he could figure out everything else.

The small fire flared up briefly drawing his attention. He watched the blaze feeling a familiarity in the chaotic random patterns of the flames. He saw shadows dancing in among the flames a companion to the ballet. Looking deeper, he saw a female form shadowed in the darkness with a light spiky hair…

A bright light burst from above encompassing the clearing blotting out the heavens and he was awed at its radiance. He fell to his knees prostrating himself before a god. He felt naked and ashamed and begged for forgiveness at his failure. He was not sure what he failed at, but then the light was suddenly just gone. He could not ever remember swearing a belief in a god before and pondering the situation. Someone to his right gripped his arm.

“It’s okay,” a gentle voice said helping him back to his feet.

The man who could not remember his name glanced at her.  She had deep red hair sparkling blue eyes. Her smile was gentle and calming. Again, a tranquil feeling washed over him. All he could do was smile back at her. She wore a crimson robe open to the front revealing her nakedness for anyone willing to gaze at her.

“Welcome Destined One,” a voice rang like chimes from his left.

Another equally alluring beauty grabbed his other arm. Her hair more radiant then the sun and her blue eyes reflected the depths of the oceans. She smiled seductively at him and he actually blushed. She was dressed identically to the woman on his right.

“Yes, welcome back,” came a male voice from in front of him. The trees parted from the clearing and out walked a dark haired man. He was dressed in a full crimson robe revealing nothing, but his was adorned with purple and gold stitching not like the simple affair, the women wore.

“Back?” the man with no name said. “Where am I and who am I?”

The man smiled a friendly smiled almost laughing at his plight of memory. He approached the altar and the flames reacted racing ever faster.

“Yes Norman, back. It is with great pleasure that we meet you once again.”

Norman brows furled. “Where am I?”

“Inconsequential,” he responded glancing to the east.

Norman followed his gaze and noticed the dark clouds gathering at the horizon approaching the eclectic group. The robed man frowned at the sight.

“We must be quick about it then.”

“Quick about what?” Norman asked.

“You are the Destined One, born of Mu, blessed with the blood of dragons and yes, you were here once before when you died receiving their blood.”

Something rang true in Norman’s mind. A key turned and the events of the last few minutes of his life thrust forward breaking the bonds of amnesia.

“I don’t understand.”

“No my child you do not. You have been so blessed to become the instrument of our revenge against our enemies that stretch back eons. We sent you back once before, but you were given a gift born of blood and amplified by the accursed dragons. You have it in you now to return whence you came.”

Norman’s memory completely returned, but he could not remember being here before, although it did seem very familiar.

“You are of dragon blood, an Assassin of the Gods. We will assist your return but you must remember this, our time for revenge is near. It is closer now than it ever was and it will be complete. Seek out Scirocco of Arachnos and he will instruct you in your heritage and you can claim true power. Believe not in false prophecies, because Lord Recluse is only a tool manipulated by us to reach our ends.”

The dark haired man gestured to the woman to his right and she thrust a bird into his hand, she pulled from a green sack he had not noticed her holding before. He held the bird by its legs near its talons. It was twice the size of a pheasant and if it were not the maroon gold plumage with iridescent neck feathers, he would have thought it to be such. It batted its wings in an attempt to escape and he nearly let go. He held the large bird up when it tried to peck at his naked body.

“You hold in your right hand a phoenix of legend,” the dark haired man continued.

The blonde woman placed a dagger in his left hand and wrapped his fingers around the hilt. He looked down at the blade that seemed almost carved in stone, but the handle seemed made of silver with minor settings of various jewels.

“In your left is a dagger carved from the petrified heart of a dragon.”

Thunder rolled from the east and Norman watched lightning flash again, the storm grew closer still. He still had many questions, like what if he did not want to be an Assassin of the Gods, just thinking it sounded preposterous. He had studied what information he could about Occam’s Razar, which really answered very little. It seemed to him the title these unusual familiar strangers imposed on him were greatly exaggerating.

“I don’t understand,” Norman said holding up the dagger and phoenix. “I died how I can return?” He could tell the dark haired man grew impatient, but breathe deeply to remain clam.

“My son,” he forced a smile, “the legend of the phoenix has been… embellished a bit. The true phoenix, when it dies, is consumed by flames so it can be reborn from its own ashes. It is not impervious to fire, much like you. You have reached the pinnacle of your abilities this will become easier for you, even if you were not phoenix-born.”

Norman stood surprised, telling the story that way seemed to make sense. Occam’s Razar had said humankind forgot the true face of dragons seeing only what they became; maybe the phoenix legend was the same way.

“Kill the phoenix, claim its life, and return to whence you came and avenge our kind once and for all.”

The Rogue Isle Protector smiled back at the dark haired man. He understood now. Paying no more attention to the divinely beautiful women at his side, he held the phoenix out over the fire and cut of the birds head off with the knife. The blood from the phoenix fell upon the flame like gasoline and the fire rose up consuming the bird.

“Do not let go,” the dark haired man said.

The phoenix’s body responded violently almost tearing its headless burning corpse from his grasp. Norman tried to control the flame, but could not. The fire ran up his arm and immediately spread all over his body. He screamed from the pain, but held tight. Once again, the Protector was consumed by flames.

***

The small band of green robed guides scoured the empty cavern; their bright glowing green eyes amplified the little light that existed. They found wooden crates filled with supplies and the scenes of a large battle.

“Here are the remains of a summoning portal,” the leader said traversing the cooled molten ground. He recognized some of the portal etchings but apparently, an extreme heat had literally melted the stone. Large claw marks were forever etched in the floor from where the heated rock had melted.

“Here,” one of the guides reported bringing a strange red metallic helmet to their circle leader. “I found it near the empty supply alcove over there.”

The leader grasped the helmet and rotated it in his palms. The traitorous Nightcasters had been here and the fact they missed them ticked him off. What did make him happy was the dozens of bodies they found littered everywhere. It was though their true god had struck out in vengeance as payment for their heresy.

“Do you think any escaped?” another member of the scout party asked.

The leader shrugged. It did not matter; they were on the run and their numbers dwindling rapidly. History would soon forget the threat of Nightcasters and the Circle of Thorns would in time rule the world. He crouched to the cavern floor and dusted off a modern armored chest plate that appeared to have survived a great heat. Attempting to wipe off the charcoal and ash, he uncovered the dulled red image of a spider. He knew the symbol of Arachnos immediately, but did not know why was here. Further digging through the ashes, he found a partially burnt uniform and belt. The belt seemed almost untouched. He watched a small breeze catch some of the remains and twirl it into a small vortex. What he failed to realize was there was no breeze in the cavern.

Norman was reborn unto Earth in flesh and blood rising once again from his ashes. The four Circle of Thorn members did not scream because there was no time. The thunderous fiery explosion erupted filling the cave and Norman coalesced from the very heart of the flames and ash hovering in the middle the previously darkened cave. He gently lowered to the floor fully clothed in his Protector regalia. Although he looked like he had walked through a blast furnace, his breastplate melted in places, scorch marks, and holes pocked the spandex-like material.

He could not but help to feel his appendages to make sure everything was still with him. The memory of his afterlife was still clear in his mind. He did not know if he was the same person he used to be, but for the time being he would have to go along with this new self. Everything had changed, patience and time was required to decide on the best course of action.

Norman checked the contents of the metallic pouches on the inside his belt. The contents were still there and seemed to have survived the fiery combat. He rebooted his helmet and already twelve hours had passed from when he first revealed his true form to Thauma. Gripping Brian’s mediport device in his hands he headed back toward the surface. If he was fast, he could get a free ride from the Paragon City emergency system and still maintain the value of the device. He had a sneaky suspicion his true love had survived.

TO CHAPTER 11 >






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