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By Myths n’ Wraiths
Edited by Vindea
An unseasonably warm ray of sunlight settled on Haven’s voluptuous form, casting her golden hair in a brilliant light and causing the faint sheen of sweat on her soft face to glisten captivatingly. The vast and broken landscape of Faultline sat in harsh contrast to her beauty; its earthy and charred ground offsetting her white skirt and sleeveless jacket that ended at her midriff.
Her tensed arms were outstretched, projecting an iridescent, green force field, which held a mass of debris several meters above the ground. Below the force field, an industrial-sized dump truck pulled up.
“Let it go!” A commanding voice rang out over the rumble of the trucks, bulldozers, and cranes that littered the immediate area.
With a blink of her eyes, Haven released her command of the force field and the green globe disappeared. The hail of debris crashed noisily into the back of the truck, bouncing the driver harshly around his cab.
“Haven!” the voice shouted again from behind her. Holding her hands at her side and clenching her fists, Haven slowly turned to look at the grim face that she knew was glaring at her.
“How about we try to do that a little more gently next time?” The words were pleasant enough but the tone was pure condescension. The hard, clean-shaven face, with its short cut brown hair and dark grim eyes, offered little more comfort.
“I’m trying, Pierce,” Haven said, fighting the temptation to grit her teeth while she spoke.
“It’s simple, Hero. Just lower the force field before you dismiss it. I’ve seen you do it a hundred times. Why are you slacking up now?” Pierce pressed demandingly.
“I-I don’t know,” Haven replied simply. She knew there was no point in trying to explain the fact that she had been out here working for twenty hours, or that she did not poses the regenerative powers that Pierce did. Explanations were wasted on the veteran hero.
“Look, how about you take a ten minute breather before you get someone hurt?” Pierce said, waving a dismissive hand at his subordinate and quickly turning his attention to one of the dozen other tasks that were being executed around them.
Wow, a whole ten minutes. Thanks.
Haven did not bother casting a force field around Pierce’s head and sealing out the air like she so desperately wanted to. Both fatigue and a reasonable certainty that the Freedom Corps would frown on such actions dissuaded her. She simply slumped down on a nearby boulder and propped her head up in her hands.
Heavy lids slid closed over liquid green eyes and Haven tried to let the cares that had built up over the past twenty hours fall away. She had little success. Even with her eyes shut, she could still hear the constant cycle of heavy construction equipment that marched through the area relentlessly. In the distance, Pierce’s harsh and resounding voice could be heard shouting in contest with the ruckus.
It was all Haven could do to keep from wondering for the umpteenth time how she had ended up in this place. She kept telling herself that what she was doing was important in the grand scale, that these countless humanitarian efforts that she was assigned to would make a lasting and critical change to Paragon’s battered landscape and economy. Such thoughts did little to fight off the ever-growing sense of dissatisfaction with her work.
This week she was working on a reconstruction project in Faultline. Last week she had spent countless hours running around with a fire extinguisher strapped to her back, combating the Hellion’s handiwork in Steel Canyon. Not the Hellions themselves, just the fires they set. Rumors were already beginning to spread that next week she would be spending her days in a class on public relations and the ethical use of powers.
Heaven forbid I should hurt anyone’s feelings by casting a force field around the wrong pile of rocks out here.
It was not a bad life. There was plenty of work to be done in the war-scarred metropolises of the world, Paragon not least of all. When Haven heard stories about the heroes like Sister Psyche, Back Alley Brawler, or Ms. Liberty however, they never included them moving piles of rocks around for hours unending. Then again, they had not joined the Paragon Patriots.
Paragon Patriots, what an unfitting name for a super group where nearly seventy-five percent of the members never arrested a single villain. The Paragon Philanthropists was more fitting; still, it didn’t have the same ring to it.
Who would have thought that in a city where people do death-defying acts to save countless people every day that helping to rebuild a middle class neighborhood would get you noticed?
That was the genius of the Paragon Patriots, the genius of Emerald Queen, their founder and leader. They were one of the largest and most influential super groups in the city and possibly even the world, all because they did what so few other heroes were doing. That was why Haven’s uncle had insisted on her joining them, and it was probably the same reason Haven couldn’t stand being with them.
“You look like you’re about to drop, Haven,” a tender voice cut into her thoughts, its melodious feminine tone in stark contrast to the rumblings of construction that filled the air.
Haven looked up hesitantly to see the uncompromisingly beautiful Emerald Queen. Her soft round face was embedded with sparkling green eyes and shrouded by perfectly highlighted blonde hair. Her dazzling figure was pristinely accentuated by her white and red costume, the outline of which was softened by a long, swallow-tailed cape.
She was so beautiful she made Haven cringe.
“Hello, Emerald Queen,” she said with a weary voice.
“Just call me Emerald, darling,” she replied kindly and placed a gentle hand on Haven’s shoulder. The touch was that of a healer, renowned throughout the city. Emerald Queen was one of the most powerful empaths in Paragon, though her abilities were handicapped due to the fact she had to be within arms reach of a person to use them.
Haven witnessed this amazing skill first hand in that instant. While Emerald’s slender fingers rested on her bare neck, all fatigue, both physical and emotional, melted away. The weariness of twenty-odd hours of manual labor fell off her shoulders in an instant and Haven felt compelled to stand under the power of her new found strength.
“Pierce must be pushing you all very hard on this project,” Emerald Queen continued with a genuinely concerned look in her eyes. “It is one of our highest priorities to make this place habitable again, but not if it means my heroes working themselves to death.”
“We should call up city hall and have his alias changed from Pierce to Taskmaster,” Haven replied. She tried to hide the aggravation in her voice by covering it with sarcasm, but did a poor job of it. Emerald Queen giggled at the remark, flashing perfect, white teeth and a smile that would melt Lord Recluse’s heart.
“He can be a bit overbearing at times, but I don’t know what I would do without him. His drive and determination have helped establish this Super Group.” Emerald Queen spoke reverently, but there was something in her voice that contradicted her words. A hint of longing or exasperation, which whispered of enduring a necessary evil, lingered in her tone.
Could it be that despite the fact they had been a virtually inseparable team for almost six years, Emerald Queen honestly did not like her second in command? Haven scolded herself mentally for having to ponder the thought.
After all, who could like Pierce?
“So where is ‘Taskmaster’ now?” Emerald Queen asked with a knowing wink.
There was no need for Haven to answer. The sound of crashing debris was quickly overwhelmed by Pierce’s harsh voice. Shrugging her shoulders, Haven pointed in the direction the noise had come from and gave a little laugh.
“Thanks Haven,” Emerald Queen said politely, laughing in kind and turning to leave. She had not made it two steps however, when knee buckling roar ripped through a nearby chasm and echoed across the construction site. Both women quickly turned on their heels to see where the noise had come from. The scene that their eyes took in brought fear to their hearts.
Clawing its way through a narrow crevasse that was nestled between two towering precipices was a behemoth drake in human shape. It had the head of a snake and two tattered wings flapped recklessly on its shoulders.
“A Bahumut,” Emerald Queen whispered shakily.
Haven said not a word. The sight of the unearthly creature was not enough to shock her into silence, but the fact that two men dressed in civilian clothes with long hair, one raven black the other stark white, were taunting the creature was. The pair darted in close enough to strike a few blows with what looked to be negative energy then quickly dashed back out of the Bahumut’s reach. The dark haired man dove within arm’s reach to deliver his attacks and even dared to linger, occasionally taking brutal blows from the horrible creature, which seemed to phase him only briefly if at all. The other man seemed more cautious and purposeful. He cast cloud after cloud of nether energy from afar, distracting and hurting the monster while never giving it a chance to strike back.
The skirmish between the three grew more intense once the Bahumut finally freed itself from the constraints of the crevasse and had room to make more brutal attacks. Still, the two men played their deadly game of cat and mouse with exceptional skill.
To Haven it was like watching a scene from a movie, flawlessly executed and enthrallingly exhilarating. She was so wrapped up in the power of what she was witnessing that she didn’t even notice that with each giant stride the Bahumut took the fight drew closer and closer to the reconstruction site.
“Haven!” Emerald Queen shouted and grabbed the younger heroine’s shoulder, snapping her out of her trance. “There are civilians here. We have to get them out of the way before or that Bahumut will tear them to pieces.”
“But what about them?” Haven contradicted, pointing at the two figures that darted around the Bahumut’s massive feet.
Taking another look at the fight, Emerald Queen replied, “I think they can handle themselves.”
Myth poured every ounce of strength he could muster into his legs and dove behind a large boulder just in time to avoid getting seared alive by the Bahumut’s fiery breath. Without even bothering to look over the rock, he knew his brother was already taking actions to draw the creature’s attention away from him and guide it toward the construction site.
The darker twin leapt from behind the beast, sailing between its flailing wings and landing on the back of its shoulders. Joining his fists high over his head and wreathing them in deadly nether energy, Wraith struck at the base of his enemy’s skull.
The Bahumut fell to its knees with a mighty crash and had to brace itself with one of its clawed hands to keep from falling on its face. Instinctively it flapped its massive wings to protect its head from another blow. The wind that was cast up by the leathery appendages was enough to cast Wraith from its shoulders and send him crashing against the same boulder his brother was taking shelter behind.
“You’re supposed to be guiding him the other way!” Myth shouted. The light haired twin leapt from behind his rocky defense and began to hurl murky blasts at the Bahumut while charging toward the clearing where cranes and dump trucks could be seen.
“Look,” Wraith shot back, rolling clumsily to his knees as the pain and injuries of his collision quickly healed. “Whose bright idea was it to attack a creature summoned from hell in the first place? You know these things eat negative energy for breakfast right?”
Slowly, Wraith forced himself to his feet and charged after the giant monster, which was now recklessly chasing his brother. “We might as well be tossing Fruit Loops at it.”
Catching up with the creature and piling his momentum behind his fist, Wraith delivered a powerful blow to the back of the charging Bahumut’s knee, once again forcing it to the ground. His momentum carried Wraith in front of the beast where he landed in a crouch. Tensing his muscular legs, the stout young hero leapt upward and drove a devastating uppercut into the Bahumut’s lowered jaw.
The demon of the underworld toppled backward from the blow, its mighty wings and arms flailing wildly in an attempt to gain its balance before it crashed to the ground. A guttural roar escaped its reptilian lips when it started to roll to its knees.
The twins did not bother waiting for the creature to right itself. Wraith sprinted after Myth, who had already reached the outskirts of the reconstruction site and disappeared between a narrow pass that had been formed when a massive sky-rise had toppled against the side of a jagged cliff.
Moving gingerly through the debris in the pass, Myth charged through the dark dusty course and toward the light that glimmered at the other end. Coming to the end of the darkness, he tensed his legs and leapt for the opening. Just when he passed from the shadows and into the sunlight, a blur of white and gold passed in front of Myth, and before he had time to react, he slammed harshly into a softer, feminine form. The pair entwined and went tumbling to the dusty ground, rolling several times before they came to a graceless halt.
Myth found himself lying on his back, staring up at an attractive set of green eyes that grimaced from the pain of the collision. The pain quickly disappeared from her face when she looked down at his young but hardened features. She blinked in confusion and uncertainty, but she made no motion to let Myth up.
“Are you OK?” Myth asked placing his hand on her shoulder and pressing her gently off of him.
“Ye-yes,” she stuttered while rising to her feet. Despite her words, she cradled a scarred elbow that was shedding fresh blood. With a slight frown, Myth diverted his thoughts from the beast that was closing in on the construction site and let his empathic powers flow from his body. A faint green glow surrounded the young woman’s arm and the lacerations quickly disappeared.
“You might want to get out of here. If you run into what is chasing me you will get more than scuffed elbows,” Myth said determinedly and turned to leave.
“Wait,” she said, reaching out with her newly healed arm and grabbing Myth by the shoulder. She quickly withdrew the hand when a grim faced glanced back, but spoke on nonetheless. “I can help you.”
Myth turned to face her, his cool dark eyes slowly drifting down her form sizing her up while his mind tasted her emotional fortitude. He found resolve and capability in both. Her heart radiated an untested bravado, a fearlessness that could very well crumble at the first taste of battle but something in her emerald green eyes told Myth that would not be the case.
Glancing over his shoulder at a towering crane that had a wrecking ball dangling from steel cables, he asked, “Do you know how to use one of those?”
Wraith ducked into the pass just in time to avoid being caught in a searing wave of fiery breath. He fell against the wall of the dimly lit shaft, letting his presence taunt the Bahumut into chasing him through the narrow tunnel. A blur of motion surprised Wraith and he ducked just in time to avoid being impaled by razor sharp talons that had reached around the corner and into the tunnel with unbelievable speed. A foul-breathed snout followed the claws and Wraith had to hurl himself deeper into the tunnel to avoid being caught in the unforgiving jaws of the beast. Landing on his shoulder amidst the rubble that littered the pass, he kicked one of his powerful legs and sent a cloud of dust and debris onto the ferocious red eyes of the monster, momentarily blinding it. He quickly regained his footing and now that he was certain the beast would follow him, charged with reckless speed through the pass toward the glimmer of light that marked the other end.
He bound into the open air once again, with the creature in close pursuit. Taking in his surroundings, Wraith saw the conflict drawing to a swift conclusion and abandoned running from the Bahumut any further. Turning with slow deliberateness, the darkly garbed mutant raised his arms and shrugged his solid shoulders tauntingly.
“Let’s end this,” he muttered with a wave of his hand and stood his ground.
The Bahumut struggled and clawed its way ferociously through the narrow passage. With a growl of contempt and a roar of hunger, it drew closer to its prey. Its massive jaw snapped in anticipation when it reached the end of the tunnel and its quarry was close enough to be smelled. Its large reptilian head protruded from the crevice and reached hungrily for the small mortal’s flesh. It never saw the killer blow coming.
A sudden blur of motion rocketed across Wraith’s vision and the head of the beast exploded in a mist of blood, brains and murky blood. The gore was caught in a sudden gale that tossed it into the air and showered it down on the immediate surroundings, including the young mutant.
A massive, blood soaked wrecking ball sailed past the now crimson-covered mutant and swung lazily back toward the crane that supported it.
Wraith stood for a long moment with his eyes closed and his lips pressed shut. Then with s shiver of barely contained annoyance, spit the blood away from his lips and wiped his eyes. It did little good since his hands were also soaked in the oozing fluid.
“Well, that wasn’t exactly how I planned it.” Myth’s voice cut through the crimson fog that clouded Wraith’s vision. “Thought you were going to move or something.”
Wraith reached out with blinding speed and grabbed hold of his brother’s sleeve then said, “Next time you want to play fetch with the devil’s lap dog, you’re the bait.” With that, Wraith ripped the sleeve off of Myth’s shirt and used the already dirty fabric to wipe the blood from his eyes and mouth.
Myth chuckled at his brother’s expense. “Sure thing, and when a one ton wrecking ball comes swinging my way, I’ll have the sense to move.”
Wraith opened his mouth to retaliate but stopped when he noticed that the exchange was being watched by two women. Both were attractive blondes, one of whom was walking up hesitatingly behind Myth, while the other stood several yards off, staring at him in disbelief.
Cocking his head in a mix of amusement and confusion, Wraith took in every aspect of the woman’s seemingly immaculate beauty. His eyes drifted quickly down from her round welcoming face to her slender ankles, then took their sweet time rising to her face again. The woman shook her head and smiled at Wraith’s brazenness and walked over to him with a slight sway in her hips.
“In all my life I have never seen anything like that before,” she said in a soft inviting voice. “Are you-”
“Insane!” A harsh tone shouted out over the scene. “You must be utterly insane. Do you have any idea how stupid what you just did was?” a tall dark man nearly screamed while marching into the midst of the heroes. He squared Myth and Wraith up with unforgiving stares and waved a thick finger at them both. “You morons lead a monster to a site filled with civilians. You could have gotten dozens of people killed and wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of renovations and equipment.”
Wraith fixed the older man in with a scowl and took one confident stride toward him. Myth held out a hand, staying his brother.
“The beast was already on its way here,” the lighter twin spoke in a voice that allowed no questioning. “It had been summoned to stop your rebuilding so that the Circle of Thorn could control the conduits of magic energy that run through this area. It was summoned for that purpose and that purpose alone. If there had been twenty of us instead of two there would still be no way that we could have lured it anywhere else.”
“So save the preaching for the choir old man. We saved your ass,” Wraith added. Myth just rolled his eyes at his brother’s remark.
“We had no choice, but we knew that if we could control the beast’s approach it would give everyone here time to clear out,” Myth concluded, no longer speaking to the irate man, but focusing his words on the two more receptive women.
Unsatisfied the dusty dark haired man opened his mouth to speak again but was cut off by the older of the two ladies.
“Pierce,” she said in an authoritative tone, “I believe we owe these men a great debt of gratitude.”
The man’s jaw set noticeably to one side and he spoke through clenched teeth, “Yes ma’am,” then stormed off.
“You must forgive him.” The woman spoke with an elegance in her voice. “This project is very important to us all and it is his responsibility to protect it. A responsibility he takes very seriously.”
“That dude seriously needs to go get a blow-” Wraith began to speak.
“It’s nothing ma’am,” Myth interjected before Wraith had a chance to finish his statement. “Was the least we could do.”
The older woman let out a slight giggle at Wraith’s intended words then nodded her appreciation to Myth.
“My name is Emerald Queen, and this is Haven,” she said, motioning to the quieter woman and then offering her hand to Myth who shook it gently. “On behalf of the Paragon Patriots, I want to extend our sincerest gratitude.”
“I did most of the work and he gets the handshake,” Wraith sighed.
“If I promise you a hug when you’re all cleaned up will that suffice?” Emerald said with a teasing wink.
“We have some facilities near the zone gate you could use,” Haven offered and Emerald quickly nodded her head in agreement.
“We insist,” the older of the two women added.
“No argument from me,” Wraith replied shrugging his shoulders. “Lead the way.”
The fragrance of impending rain blew in with a gentle breeze, adding to the comparative warmth and comfort of the spacious lounge that Myth occupied. He stared distantly through the window while small specks of water began to land on the spotlessly clean panels of glass. His sixth sense spread out like a blanket around him, resting on the emotions and feelings that existed for miles around him. He could not track or identify every single one, but he felt them all. Their wake washed over him, some gentle and warm, some violent and full of turmoil, and all of them ignored; all of them except for one.
It had been a week since he and his brother had met the Paragon Patriots, seven days since they had been taken in by the Super Group as honorary guests. The pristine base of operations and the politically correct atmosphere was far from what either of the twins was used to, but for some reason Myth found himself warming to this different life style. For many years he had felt the emotions of thousands of people around him, but ignored them entirely. Now there was at least one, one out of so many, that he was noticing and even beginning to care for.
The dispiritedness that persisted in Haven’s emotions moved toward him slowly, but with purpose. Just like it had every time since they had first met, the depression faded when she approached the room in which he stood, and disappeared completely when the heavy oak door to the lounge opened and the voluptuous young woman entered.
With a sudden and vital object to focus on, Myth’s sense of sight and smell awoke from their stupor. His eyes turned from watching the growing storm and settled on Haven’s smiling face. Her faint fragrance added to the smell of the coming rain and Myth could not help but smile in contentment.
“Why do I always know where to find you?” Haven asked furrowing her brow in confusion. Myth shrugged innocently in response.
Walking up to stand next Myth, Haven interlocked her hands behind her body and leaned in close. “The verdict is in,” she whispered secretively.
“Really?” Myth said sotto voce, playing along. “And… what verdict would that be?’
“Emerald is going to ask you and your brother to join the Paragon Patriots to head up our Quick Response Team,” Haven spoke more loudly and enthusiastically.
Myth couldn’t help but chuckle. “So that’s why Pierce has been walking around all day like someone killed his dog.”
“That would be why,” Haven giggled in response. “That guy doesn’t like you too much, but I don’t think I have ever seen him hate anyone as much as he does your brother.”
“Yes, well Wraith isn’t exactly the ‘user friendly’ type,” Myth said, rolling his eyes.
“I dunno’. Emerald seems quite taken with him.” Haven winked knowingly.
“Funny that.” The young mutant scratched his white hair.
“I think deep down inside the Queen has a soft spot for the bad boy type.”
Myth could not help but laugh. “I suppose.”
“So?” Haven asked.
“So…what?” Myth asked slightly confused.
“What will you say when she asks you to stay?” the young blonde mutant persisted.
Myth frowned slightly and glanced back toward the window. The rain had started to fall more heavily and all he could think of was how uninviting the rest of the world seemed to him in that moment.
Turning back to Haven’s inviting smile he said, “This is going to be a rough transition. Being peacemakers instead of fighters is something new to us.”
“Is new so bad?” Haven’s green eyes opened wide in expectation.
Myth stared into those eyes for a long moment, getting lost in the sea of liquid emerald mirrors to her soul.“No… no, I don’t think it is.”