The breeze that blew along this shore was warmer than the breeze that fought through the Mists on the other side of the Crystal City. Across an expanse of calm, dark water, a twin shore curved along the horizon. Instead of the trees that lined the sand behind Kyran, the other shore was a silhouette of hard, barren rock.
The Island of Senso no Haha, the Fighting Mother.
Kyran had never traveled this far from the Crystal City. Home. The thought disturbed the living darkness in her. While she had lived among them, Kyran had never truly felt as if she belonged with the Soul Seers. It had only been through leaving the Crystal City and the shaman who had raised her that she understood the meaning of home.
And now it was gone. Not destroyed, but no longer the peaceful place of magic and healing that it had been for the past thousand years. As Kyran ran from the cave of weapons, she had watched the cliffs that held the city shake and the crystal veins grow dark.
The Soul Seers are waiting for me to wake Senso no Haha, the Fighting Mother. They are waiting for the crystal to return. She shuddered as she thought of the cliffs webbed with red, the runes of the stone steps to the shaman’s cave the color of blood instead of the cool, healing blue. Like it is on the night of the Blood Moon.
The shaman, her grandfather, had said that the Mists were failing. The people of the Crystal City had turned over their weapons a thousand years ago to become the healers of Iyashino Haha, the Healing Mother. We killed, we raped, we severed families and burned the land. We brought pain into the world, the shaman cited each year while the Soul Seers gathered around the Soul Tree. I remember.
The hairs at the base of her neck pricked and the darkness in her tugged. Kyran looked behind her at the trees. They were a mix of tall, pale trunks with flat leaves and twisted, wind-carved evergreens that climbed up a cliff face. She saw nothing, but the darkness would not settle.
Kyran looked again at the rocky shoreline of Senso no Haha. How do I get across there? Everyone who tries is pulled into the abyss of the Fighting Mother. She slid her pack off her shoulder and sat on a fallen tree trunk, her toes in the sand. She felt heavy, guilt from the suicide of her lover and fear for the Soul Seers weighing on her heart. I have to do this, or they will die.
Weary and lost, Kyran looked at the hilt of the sword she had taken with her from under the Crystal City. And what is this supposed to do for me? She untied it from her pack and held it up, sunlight illuminating the smooth round stone embedded in the metal. When Kyran had pulled it from the pile of weapons in the Soul Seers cavern, the stone glowed red and blue. Now it was colorless, the clear jewel appearing almost endless in the tempered steel.
She slid the blade from its metal sheath and weighed the weapon against the warm breeze.
“Would you like to learn how to use that?” The voice, warm and male and ageless, startled Kyran to her feet.
“Who are you?” She pointed the sword at the stranger, although she knew it was the darkness within her that was her true weapon. She fought to keep it under control as she studied the creature.
At least a head taller than the shaman had stood in the weapons cavern, this creature wore a long black cloak that hid his face in the shadow. Kyran could make out a pair of fiery golden eyes and skin that was…red?
From the depth of the cloak, the ageless voice spoke. “I am Phenyx, son of the Andians.”