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This is not precisely an RP. Zanon and I intend to finish up the Darkest Heart storyline, and this is the place for it. Please ignore unless you had some interest in the storyline of Nathaniel Greybourne or Ravener.
When we last saw our “heroes:”
Nathanial Greybourn III sat pondering his fate. The fade had not called him in several days, which was not a bad thing, just unusual. Nathanial took out the Black Sword and inspected it again.
It was a simple double edged hand and a half sword. No intricate carvings or lettering decorated the surface, no ornate jewels decorated the hilt. The only thing that marked the bade as special was the black blade itself.
It was black. Not like a void, but darker than any black that Nathanial had ever seen.
The air chilled suddenly.
Then got exceptionally warm.
Two frost imps and a dozen hellhounds approached Nathanial from the front. He stood and brought the blade up.
One of the imps shivered, sending frost flakes to the ground.
"Please don't kill us master."
Nathanial looked at the imp mistrustfully. "Master?"
The other imp shivered then spoke. "Yes. Fade master is dead. You first among servants. You master."
Nathanial thought furiously for a moment. It made sense.
Nathanial smiled wickedly. "Let's talk."
Ravener stumbled blindly through the forest.
I will kill them all.
Hate overwhelmed him, consuming all thoughts, desires, sensations. He knew only Revenge. If it cost him his life, and it doubtless would, he would see them all dead. The Angel especially.
I will kill them all.
He knockes trees, boulders, and brambles effortlessly out of the way with blows from his powerful limbs, uprooting plants and smashing stone.
I will kill them all.
He found himself at the top of a hill, looking down at the forest. It was so… alive, so healthy. It infuriated him.
I will kill them all.
He would consume this planet utterly, and when he had finished this accursed universe would follow. With the strength of an entire dimension within him… He crashed off into the brush again, one thought in his mind:
I will kill them all.
He did not know where he was going, and he was not expected there. Some things, it seems, happen, regardless of logic and intent.
But now hunger and thirst would unite, and the growing dark and last light of a shadowed world would see one last struggle that would heal the planet…
…or tear it apart.
Nathanial Greybourn III was ready to punch the wall with frustration.
He had an army now. Of Hellhounds even!
And absolutely no way to give them any sort of complex orders.
Sure he could point at something and say 'kill' and they would attack it, but that was like having a truck that you couldn't shift out of first gear. It was still a vehicle, but you were missing so much of the potential performance and speed you could get out of it!
The Hellhounds, a tool of many uses in the fade's knowledgeable hands, had been reduced to a club.
The imps were the exact opposite. They could carry out the most complex orders imaginable. To the letter even. But they were about as low on the power scale as you could go. Any hunter who had anything even close to a working knowledge of hunting could take them out with a hand tied behind his back.
He needed to find someone who could tell him how to control the Hellhounds to their fullest extent. Someone he could trust... And someone who would be willing to help.
Then it was there.
The answer. A location not thirty miles from here. A place where someone who could answer his questions was.
But how did he know the answer? It could only be the sword. It was helping him. Giving him what he needed to succeed.
Nathanial smiled and stood. He had someone to find.
A sound of loss echoed through the closed library. The moon was still high in the night sky, illuminating the building and revealing it to be a dull cement and glass building. The sounds came from a lone figure inside the library. Someone who had broken in for the silence and comfort of an empty building and many books.
Amon cried quietly as he read. If wept was even the right word... Vampires did not cry tears, so 'cried' was not quite the word, but it was far more than mere sobs. The inability to cry did not change the feelings behind the pain.
Amon was a Vampire who looked as if he had been turned when he was about 80. Wrinkles lined his pale face, and he wore far more black than usual. He was mourning.
The lack of tears allowed Amon to keep reading. His vision did not become foggy due to the moisture. There was no chance that tears would stain the book he was reading.
And he hatted it.
It was like there was no proof that he actually felt grief for his dead family. His entire coven, slain by a lone angel. Everyone but him had died. He had lived only because he had not stood with the others.
Their leader had stood his ground when the angel came, like the fool he was. As Amon knew he would. The best weapon in their possession had the power to kill the angel, and their leader had probably died holding it.
Amon sobbed again. The fool had probably gotten smote before he had been able to swing the thing. And those who had stood beside him... dead seconds after that. Dead because they had not run like he had.
Dead because loyalty to each other had meant more to them then life.
Amon sobbed again and the book fell from his hands.
"You!" Came a voice in front of him. A voice filled with furry.
Amon looked up hurriedly. What he saw brought joy to his heart. A member of his coven was still alive! One of the many he had thought dead forever, to exist only in his memories.
For before him stood none other than Nathanial Greybourn III.
The barn was on fire.
This was, obviously, not good for its owner.
Some fortune was with him, though. He had neighbors, and every one of them knew that if their barn was on fire, he would be the first one to help. So he was not short of willing hands. Of course, they had to approach it carefully. There was a great deal of danger in that burning structure, they knew.
The amount of danger present was actually significantly higher than they estimated, but naturally they were unaware of that.
The fact is that motives are important. For example, something beautiful or alluring can become completely repulsive and terrifying if you know wher it came from. If you saw a glittering golden necklace lying on the ground, you would be excited, unless you happened to know that there was a tribe of wicked gnomes living in the area that used gold to lure people close to their holes so they could leap out and GRAB YOU.
Because, scary as something is, a hint of intelligence always makes it scarier.
A burning barn is scary.
A burning barn intentionally set ablaze is somewhat scarier.
A burning barn intentionally set ablaze in order to lure people closer is downright terrifying.
The smarter the enemy is, the scarier it is. Typically. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but I won't go into detail at the moment. The point is, the group of farmers carrying buckets of water and hooking up hoses didn't have time to consider the paragraph directly above this one. There were intelligent predators around that might have used such a trick, but they had been rather harried lately, courtesy of Tobias Van Helsing and company, not to mention that angel a few people claimed to have seen.
Did I mention unknown enemies are rather frightening as well?
The less you know about something, the scarier it is. Well, once again there are some exceptions, but I won't waste time with them, because they don't apply in this case.
The bottom line is this: as the group ran towards the blazing barn, one of the farmers, John Green, thought he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned and looked, suddenly fearful of vampires, and saw someone standing there, some distance away, hidden by the shadows of the woodshed. Then that someone started to move, a good deal faster than seemed natural.
No blame can be cast on the fellow for what he did next. He fainted.
Actually, this saved his life. By the time he came to, he saw one of the party remaining, screaming in terror as the whatever it was lunged at him.
And ate him.
John fainted again.
"Nathanial! You are alive!"
Amon stood with supernatural speed and rushed at Nathanial, intent on giving his long lost coven member a hug.
Nathanial's fist met him before he could do so, sending him back across the room where he collided with a wall.
Nathanial's tone was cold and unforgiving. "So are you. You weren't in the chamber with the others when we tried to kill the angel. WHY? Why did you leave us in our darkest hour, the hour we needed everyone the most?"
Amon responded in kind, his voice giving off heat and anger. "Because it was foolish! They had only the merest hint of a hope of victory! Perhaps less! Or leader was a fool for standing against the angel. We should have all fled." Amon narrowed his eyes at Nathanial. "You must have realized this! If you had stood against the angel you would have died."
Nathanial growled, his voice low and threatening. "I stood to the very end and died. A fade brought me back so that I could serve it. Do not dare to presume me a coward."
Amon slid to the floor, his voice seeming to carry the note of defeat. "I see. You must think me a coward for running. Perhaps I am a coward... But it was also the correct choice. The one we all should have made." Amon looked up suddenly, his eyes glowing red. Doubt had vanished from his voice. "But the death of the others is due to your actions as much as those of our leader. YOU led the angel to our cave. No one else. If you had stayed away, they would all be alive today."
Amon dropped his head again. "Yet that does not change the fact that I ran away. I will help you as I can."
Nathanial nodded. "I need to know how to control Hellhounds."
Amon looked ready to burst. "ARE YOU BLOOMING MAD!?!?!?! HELLHOUNDS!?!?!? Summoning those is beyond you! You can't even begin to know the complex requirements to summon one of those... things!"
Nathanial smiled. Amon looked rather comical. An 80 year old (looking) man was shouting and waving his fists in the air like an angry revolutionary. "The fade summoned them. But now the fade is dead and they are mine to control. But I don't know how."
Amon looked disbelievingly at Nathanial. This continued for a few moments before Amon stood and smoothed his hair. Collecting himself after his outburst. "I suppose that changes things. Come with me. We have far to go and the night is no longer young."
A cracking noise echoed through the night.
Near the edge of the forest, a hill rose up through the trees, bare of growth except for a few twisted, lifeless trunks, devoid of leaf or bark. They were obviously not long for the world.
Someone looking closely at the hill would have noticed a small orange light at the top, like that of a fire. On any other planet, a watcher would have assumed someone was camping up there.
Here, it was a warning to stay away. No sane person would be out there in the middle of the night with a nice fire to draw every vampire, werewolf, and other assorted man-eating monster from miles round. Thus, by default the creature responsible for that fire ws not human.
The cracking noise was too loud and sharp to be from the fire, for it was a fire. If our fictional watcher had drawn closer, he would have seen that the fire was larger than he might have suspected from a distance, the base about six feet in diameter.
No bonfire, to be certain. But certainly large enough for a full group of insane humans to cook hot dogs and marshmallows over without fear of crowding, at least until some vamp took notice of their fire.
Our watcher would also have noticed that there was in fact someone sitting by the fire. At first glance, this person appeared human. This person was holding the bone of some large animal in its hand. Suddenly, it seized the other end of the bone with its free hand, twisted it, and snapped it in two with barely an effort.
Obviously not human.
Closer examination, while fatal, would have been just as telling. The person had writing on their skin, not impossible, except that the writing glowed faintly. The person's eyes were dark, like black holes in his face, and the skin around his jaw hung down loosely as if it had been stretched out in the past. The teeth, visible as the jaw was slack and the mouth hanging open, were not unusually sharp, but were unusually long, almost more frightening than if the creature had fangs. The creature lifted half of the snapped bone to its mouth and sucked out the marrow, then cast it away and reched for another.
Ravener, of course.
More importantly, the watcher wasn't fiction. Ravener looked up as someone walked into his camp. Someone he knew well. Someone he feared and hated.
With an exclamation of shock and horror, he leapt to his feet, ready to fight. To his surprise, the being ignored him and crouched down next to the fire.
"Beautiful evening, isn't it?"
Ravener narrowed his eyes and stared at the being. "Why are you here? How are you here? What do you want from me... Warden?"
The being looked up, his eyes shining like emeralds. "Oh... nothing much. I was in the neighborhood and thought we might have a little... chat. So, old friend... why don't you sit down?"
He said those last words rather forcefully. Ravener found himself sitting down. The Warden smiled.
"Good. Now, let's talk."
Ravener stared uncomfortably at the immensely powerful being sitting on the other side of the campfire, warming his hands and sighing with relief.
"I find it interesting that you built a fire, Frytharm. I wouldn't have expected it."
Ravener shrugged miserably. "I was cold."
The Warden nodded. "A valid reason. I simply thought that the light would be repulsive to you. But then again, that's only sunlight, right?" Ravener frowned, but nodded, only to see the Warden shake his head.
"What is it?"
The Warden continued shaking his head. "Old habits die hard, I suppose. You know, in this world the sun is no more holy than your campfire, in truth. In fact, the ball of light you see in the sky each day isn't even the Sun, but rather a star, distant from the Human Planet. Even if that weren't the case, the Moon's light is actually reflected sunlight, and should hurt you just as much, and even the stars are distant suns."
Ravener was astonished. "I knew this... but how do you?"
The Warden chuckled. "Oh, because I'm from a backwards, fantasy universe mean I don't understand the principles of light, the simplest laws of physics, the scientific method? You forget, I was once human, just as you were once an angel. Even young as I was, an infant compared to the Warden, I still had gained some knowledge in the human schools in my home World."
He leaned forward, closer to the fire. "The truth is that certain principles of magic exist within this universe, obviously. This universe is what would be classified as a 'minor spin-off' by people who classify such things, a copy of a magicless world whose only difference is the existence of magic. Localized magic. Also, certain facts of your existence would hold true in any universe you entered, such as hate for the sun. Because you are magical, and still capable of performing magic, you are still affected by natural magic, even if it does not exist."
Ravener shook his head. The Warden was known for rambling. Some believed him insane, and briefly that was certainly true. "Why does this matter? What is your purpose here."
The Warden sighed. "I can see you have desire to be friendly."
"Why should I?" Ravener snapped. "The last time we met, you banished me from existence."
The othe rman nodded, this motion causing the firelight to reflect from his emerald eyes. "That is true. However, I had very good reason for it. You were a threat to the Lushes, and I do not tolerate threats to my domain. But..." He gestured around. "I actually knew where you would end up. I am powerful, even by interdimensional standards. I thought sending you here, to a world where your hunger could be used for good, might help you. I can see I was wrong." He scowled. "You're far worse than when last I met you."
Ravener rose with a growl. "I do not need you to judge me. You are not my master."
The Warden merely stared at him for a long time. Finally he spoke, quietly. "Then who is your master?"
"I HAVE NO MASTER!!" Ravener screamed.
The other being nodded, a sad expression on his face. "Then you have rejoined the Evil One. My efforts, it seems, were in vain. I thought I could save you, Frytharm, but perhaps you are beyond that. The only way to repent is to choose to repent, and I have tried to force salvation upon you against your will."
He focused on the fire and sighed. "I love fires like this, you know. Excelent setting for the telling of stories and sharing of wisdom. Well, I'll be going now. Perhaps I will see you again one day."
He arose and walked past Ravener, but as he did he bent and whispered in his ear. "I hope you will choose the right path." Then he picked up a walking stick and disappeared into the night, humming something or nothing.
Nathanial and Amon reached the cave with less than five minutes left before sunrise. Both were more than a little panicked because neither had cut it that close for over twenty years.
Vampires didn't become exhausted physically unless they were short on blood. The same did not hold true for nerves.
"That took far longer than I thought it would." Amon commented a little shakily. "I must have lost track of time in my sorrow."
Nathanial nodded mutely. Amon's deceleration that he saw there destination had relieved him more than he would ever care to admit. "We are stuck here for the day now. We might as well start looking for the reason we came here."
Amon nodded and began to walk. "This place used to belong to a group of cultists bent on bringing a greater true demon to this plain. I helped them in the early stages of preparation in exchange for blood, that is, until I found out what they were planning to do. A greater true demon indeed. I should have known better."
Nathanial noticed that the talking seemed to be helping Amon calm down and felt a pang of envy. His nerves were still shot.
Amon continued. "They were foiled by Van Helsing and his band of half-breeds along with a couple of angles. Makes me doubly glad I cut ties with them and makes me glad that there are Helsings in the world."
Nathanial's jaw dropped. "Glad there are Helsings in the world?! They have hunted our kind since Dracula's time!"
Amon held his palms out peaceably. "Calm down child. They have their place. I hate them for killing our kind as well, but they are defenders of existence as well as hunters. Without them, the greater true demon would have been summoned. Then the world would change, and you can bet your fangs that there would be less people to feed on... If any were left at all."
Nathanial frowned but accepted Amon's words. "Are we close?"
Amon nodded and placed his hand on a wall. "They had a hidden library behind this wall that I bet the Helsings did not find." The wall moved with a crunch and grating noise, revealing a passage behind the false wall. Amon raised a hand. "Touch nothing. Many of the books in here will be cursed. Enter at your own peril."
Amon turned and vanished into the shadows of the passage.
Ravener faded into the darkness of a fallen tree's hollow trunk and vanished, his form seeming to consume what little light made its way in.
Day had come, the savior of man.
The Warden was watching. And so he is once again an enemy of the light. I pity him. He shook his head, then vanished, not just from sight, but from existence.
Someone else was watching. The Angel of the Patrol stood high atop a tree, his supernaturally powerful eyes making out what occurred below. The encounter with the Warden was... unnerving. What was he doing here? Fortunately, it seemed it had not had a significant effect on the Glutton. His salvation must be prevented.
Sad, but necessary. Logic dictated this. The salvation or destruction of Ravener would seperate the essence of his hunger from him, for such evil is not destroyed easily. It would find another host, and the Patrol knew exactly who that would be. Therefore, this was necessary.
The Angel cursed himself and his mission as only an Angel can.
Day passed, the the planet's sun making its way across the sky slowly until at last darkness once again crept over the hills, and once again humanity was forced, shivering, into its little lamp-lit corners. As the great author said, it is the good times that pass quickly and the bad that are interesting to read about.
Ravener crept out of his hiding place once more, his hunger beginning to pain him greatly. He needed to eat! To that end, he needed to find something to eat. He climbed the nearest tree, hoping to see something edible.
As luck would have it, his eyes rested on a human farm. The people there would provide easy prey, but a farmer and his wife were hardly a decent meal for the Hunger that had consumed nations! Still, it was better than nothing, and a decent start for the day. Ravener began to climb down from the tree, rubbing his throat. It was hurting again.
Ever since the thrice-accursed Angel had struck him, his pain grew and grew, especially at night, when the Angel's glory was made brighter by the darkness around. Now the pain was becoming almost unbearable. Ravener sank to the ground, the pain overwhelming his senses. His throat hurt, but the hurt spread, engulfing his mouth with a bitter taste. A foul smell assailed his nose, he felt cold and hot at the same time, but worst of all a hideous sound assailed his ears. It was like... like...
Any mortal would jave found it entrancingly beautiful. Not so for Ravener. It was deafening, it was tuneless, it was maddeningly repetitive! He writhed on the ground, unable to control his agony.
Then abruptly the noise stopped, and the pain faded as quickly as it had arrived. Ravener stood, rubbing at his throat again.
The attacks were getting worse.
A surge of rage spread through him. The attacks were getting worse? Then let the puny humans say that as well! He would rip them from the 'protection' of their pathetic homes and devour them, and the more pain he suffered the more he would consume. That was his way. He could see no path of revenge better than this.
Ah, but planning later. He was hungry now.
Edited by KnarledOne on 2/2/2013 4:36 AM PST
"It's smaller than I expected."
Amon glanced over at Nathanial. "This is actually a fairly large collection. Think about it Nathanial. Historically speaking, why would a library of Evil knowledge be so rare?"
Nathanial glanced at the shelves and thought for a moment. "Angels, Helsings, and any normal hunter would destroy these books if they were found."
Amon nodded. "Quite so. In addition to that, how many beings want to be called into the mortal realms by any old human?"
Nathanial raised an eyebrow. "Isn't the whole point of coming to the mortal realms to spread their taint and please themselves?"
Amon considered before he replied. "Yes, but imagine this: You are a child and your parents have brought you to a play ground. You go expecting to have a grand old time but then the 'however' rears its head. You must wear handcuffs on your hands and chains on your ankles."
Nathanial smiled. "It would significantly detract from the experience."
Amon nodded as he began to search the shelves. "Yes. It is the same when something is summoned. Unless it is some sort of extremely powerful being in its own right, it will be bound to the will of its summoner."
"Where are you going with this Amon?"
Amon tisked. "So impatient. Can you see a raving demon accepting these chains willingly?"
"No." Nathanial replied.
"Exactly! That is why these books are so rare to begin with. Very few beings let slip their names to the mortal world because they do not wish to be bound. Those that do give their names to the mortal realm hope to be summoned poorly so they can escape their bounds. Here it is."
Amon reached out and pulled a book from the shelf. He blew off a fine coating of dust and handed the book to Nathanial. "There. We should begin reading. I dislike this place."
Ravener was getting bored.
A lot of people get fat by eating when they're bored. That was not likely to happen to him, but still this was intolerable.
He was doing as he'd planned: wreaking terror and destruction on all the planet's inhabitants. Thanks to him, a few outlying regions were completely deserted, the farmers and other countrymen going anywhere they could to avoid his depredations. Still, this wasn't exactly stupendous. Any goblin or Zergling could do that. He was barely doing better than the pathetic vampires and werefolk.
Hm, the night creatures. He'd consumed a few of them. They were a welcome change from human. The humans of this world were bland and tasteless, no magic in them, mostly very similar in corruption percentage. In the old world, he had the consumption of humans down to a science. He knew how to find the best flavors, how to achieve blends, where particular types of magic thrived.
But here? No magic! Boring. At least there were night creatures, and their dark flavor was interesting.
But he still felt frustrated. Why? In the Lushes he had always been content to merely eat. He consumed entire nations back then, of course, but even when his essence was scattered into the Gluttons he had never needed to think about anything else.
But this was... intolerable. He felt useless. Purposeless. And he was. He always had been. But it never bothered him before. He felt the need to do real damage, not just scare a few morsels into hiding and worry the local slayers. He wanted revenge.
This puzzled him. He never felt that need before, not this strongly. First he thought, you never had your throat sliced out by an accursed angel before, fool! But then again, he had felt a sword's bite many times. He had been cut in two just before the arrival of the Starborn, he had been imprisoned by the Guardians, shattered to pieces by the Three, and banished from existence by the Warden. So that couldn't precisely be it.
It puzzled him, but he could find no answer. And still the desire for revenge grew within him with every burst of pain the ran through his body.
He needed to do damage. But he hadn't had to make a plan in the last several millenia. Always there was Srithen or Drakone or Enok'Rad to make the plan.
SO he looked for more victims. Perhaps a plan would come to him.
I shall include part of Darkest Heart here so that you can better understand Altun's story.
Ravener has begun taking steps towards Redemption. There is the possibility that he may once again join the hosts of Him on High. But his hunger can not come with him if he does so.
It would be displaced from him. Free. Free to find a new host in which to manifest the insatiable hunger. This was unacceptable. Altun received orders directly from the Patrol to prevent Ravener from returning to grace, for the hunger could not be allowed to find a being whom it could control.
It is hard to explain exactly what would happen if the hunger found another, weaker willed being than Ravener... But I suppose that it boiled down to this:
It was his hunger. Ravener's every thought was tainted by the hunger. Ravener's every emotion was tainted by the hunger. Ravener's every action was tainted by the hunger.
But the hunger did not rule his body. He ruled himself... Barely.
This would almost certainly not be true of the hunger's next host. The hunger would rule the host, not just taint them. Turn them into something to be feared by all of creation... THE embodiment of hunger. Not just a powerful and hungry being, but a force that took no rest between feedings, just one continuous string of death and destruction.
And so we visit the past, to the moment that would have been Ravener's biggest step toward redemption... And the violation of all that one Archangel, Altun, believed in. Denying one a chance at redemption... A crime so great that he had considered disobeying his orders and falling from grace himself.
Ravener sits alone, unaware of the Archangel coming to prevent his return.
The Great Battle. The pure fire of the Ranks against the angry fire of the Rebels. Anger, anger and pain. Much pain. Burning, feeling the evil within igniting into torturous flames. Brother fighting brother, friend piercing friend, comrade striking comrade. A gleaming white blade descending...
Altun stands not far away.
Altun leaves in shame, for he has broken his own spirit as well as Ravener's. We have heard naught from him since his departure from the scene of his terrible deed.
But that may soon change.
Altun, Archangel of Him on High strode through the ashes of the once whole barn. The sun's rays seemed to compliment the glow of the Archangel's gently glowing armor. The Holy Light it emitted would have burned the eyes of Dark things that happened to look upon it, and burned the flesh of those same things if they remained close for to long.
The armor had one feature that was perhaps more noticeable than the glow. The helmet had no holes for the Archangel's eyes to be seen through... Or its mouth... Or its nose. The front was a seamless glowing sheet of metal. Only the turning of its head gave indication of what the Archangel was looking at.
The fire had been set. There was no question of that.
The local people were dead. There was no question of that.
The Ravener had eaten them. There was no question of that.
Altun could feel the stain left by Ravener's presence. It had grown far more pronounced in the last few days. That meant that the hunger was becoming more pronounced as well. Stronger. It would try Ravener's will in the worst of ways.
Altun continued to stride through the building's ashes to the survivor he had sensed. They were few and far between, but he felt obligated to help them all the same. Without his intervention, Ravener would not be on this bloody spree.
He knelt beside the man, who was lying on his side with his eyes wide in terror. Even so long after the attack the man still bore the scars of seeing the hunger so close to him. It too left stains... but these stains were on the soul, not the ground.
Altun gently placed a hand on the man's head as though giving a blessing. He could remove the stain only in part. The memory must be left behind. But it would give the man enough strength to make the choice to be over overcome by the memory or to rise above it.
"Rise if you can find the will to do so John. The choice is yours."
Altun stood stopped suddenly.
He could feel an Evil. Not Ravener's hunger... Its stain was upon the air above him. Whatever the Evil was had flown over this location not so long ago. Evil that needed cleansing. Altun stretched his wings out to their fullest extent, the pure white of them standing out clearly from the polluted world. A single stroke of his wings sent Altun up into the air and set him on the path of the Evil that had traveled the same way.
John's stiff body continued to lie there. A breeze rose and sent the grass rippling and swaying in waves. A bird began its song in a nearby tree and a second joined it. Sounds of normality continued to join the bird and the breeze until one would have never guessed that such a horrible fire had driven the wildlife away.
And John blinked.
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