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“Again.” I shout finally able to finish my sentence.

I hear gasps from all around me, I look around to see that we are outside the gates to the capital. The faces of people, merchants and families glance at me before noticing Aodh at my side and quickly looking away and hurrying off into or away from the capital.

“I swear by the great fire, if you ever do that again Aodh...” I trail off leaving the threat hanging.

‘I’m not waiting outside this time.’ He tells me ignoring my annoyance, ‘I’m coming with you.’

His tone of voice says that he is intent and there is no point arguing with him and even if I did he would still enter the city. I don’t mind though, I had actually planned on bringing him into the city in the first place, these cities can be especially dangerous even to someone like me, especially to someone like me. The Fire Brand clan had fallen out of favour with the nobility and the bigotry and hatred caused from the falling out had trickled down and now most people despise the clan and for anyone foolish enough or stronger enough to kill a member of the Fire Brand clan could expect a hefty reward if proof could be provided, very few were stupid enough to attack one of the Fire Brand clan though.

“I was going to get you to come along anyway.” I tell him lightly, Aodh simply grunts in reply.

We walk into the city, Aodh back in his true Hellhound form walks at my side as I move through the cramped and disgusting streets of the cities slums being pulled forward by the summoning magic. We receive so many looks of hate and disgust as we walk through the filth infested streets that I start to think that we might be attacked but nothing happens.

We reach a small area where there are no houses but a patch of wilted grass and a few sickly looking trees and flowers, a pale imitation of the lush and verdant forest just outside the city walls. The people of this rancid city seem to find solace and beauty in this dying and miserable place though so who am I to judge.

I’m being drawn to the far side of the little open area but I see something I need to do first. I don’t like most average adults but children are a different thing altogether, they are innocent and if someone like me can help a child then they might be able to break the cycle of bigotry and hatred.

The young boy had been getting taunted by a group of other boys they had been calling him weird and freak and had been pushing him around until he final broke down and cried.

“They only call people like us freaks because they are scared of our uniqueness, our potential to be better than they are. They know that we can and will do great things while they toil in the dirt and accomplish nothing.” I tell the boy as I crouch down next to him, “do not let them break you down and never let them make you like them. Achieve the greatness you are destined to and hold your head up high while you do it.”

I try help the boy to his feet but he looks up at me with big tear filled eyes and then he spots the scar covering the brand that marks me as one of the Fire Brand clan, his eyes then see Aodh standing just behind me. The boy trembles as his eyes dart between myself and Aodh, I start to tell him that it’s ok and he doesn’t have to be scared of me but before I can even speak he scrambles backwards until he can get to his feet and then he runs.

I sigh in annoyance and pity, the hatred towards my kind is too deep for one nice speech and act to wipe away so I stand and start to follow the draw of the summoning magic once more.

I walk across the open space and follow the pull of the magic until I see her, her hair looks just like the flames of a blazing pyre like one touch could burn you to ashes, it is magnificent. I follow her for a moment, she is whistling tunelessly without a care in the world, she seems happy and I feel guilty because what I’m about to do is going to destroy her life.

“Excuse me miss.” I say approaching her quickly from behind.

The girl turns around, she had sounded happy but she looks a little bit sad. I flinch in surprise when I see her face, it may have been over a decade but I know this girl. Her face lights up when she sees me like she can’t believe I’m really here which just makes me feel even more guilty.

“Uncle Larcon.” The girl squeals throwing herself at me, wrapping her arms around me and sending what feels like shocks through my body.

It feels wrong for me to think what I’m thinking but I can’t help it, it feels like her body fits against mine perfectly like we are two pieces of a puzzle that were made for each other, maybe we were made for each other based on the words of the prophecy it could actual be so. Without thinking I wrap my arms around her and pull her close, I feel the sudden and intense urge to tilt her face up to mine and kiss her, to lose myself in her lips and her hair, her eyes and the curves of her body but I can’t because of the prophecy and the connection I already have to her.

“Hey Seraphine.” I say softly pulling back a little from the hug to look her in the face.

Her eyes are the most stunning shade of green, brighter than any emerald I have ever seen they seem to sparkle like the suns light on water. She looks pale, not a sickly pale like so many people in this city but naturally pale, unlike the other citizens of this city, of this land, Seraphine is truely beautiful.

“How’s your father?” I ask her. I’ve known her dad since before she was born, we met once when I was working for one of the nobility in the city and had quickly become friends.

“He’s good. Will you be visiting him? He would be so happy.” She says excitedly.

“I... I don’t know.” I say sadly with a sigh.

I had been shocked when I saw that the girl from the prophecy, the girl that I was being magically drawn to was the daughter of one of the only people I could call a friend, I have to tell her why I am actually here though, she needs to know about the prophecy and everything it means and brings with it.

“Are you still living at home?” I ask her, she nods her head looking at me a little concerned as she must sense the change in my demeanour.

“We need to go there now then, there’s some things we all need to talk about.” I tell her.

“Ok follow me.” She says obviously worried by my words.

I follow Seraphine as she leads me through the cramped and stinking streets of the city towards her families home. She stops outside a house and looks around at me for a moment before opening the door.

“Dad, are you home?” She calls out as she steps inside with me following close behind her.

“I thought you were going to be out till later.” Her father says as he walks into the room with a smile on his face, his smile falters for a moment when he sees me standing behind Seraphine.

“Larcon it’s been a while.” He says taking my hand and shaking it but looking nervous.

“It has been too long friend.” I say giving him a weak smile.

“Aodh it’s good to see you as well.” He says looking down at the Hellhound who had followed me inside the house.

“I wish it was under better circumstances Phillon.” Aodh says tipping Seraphines father Phillon off to the fact something is wrong more than my shaky smile could.

“What is wrong?” Phillon asks looking from Aodh to Seraphine and finally to me.

“The girl with fiery hair and the outcast who does not age.” I paraphrase the prophecy.

“No.” Phillon growls angrily, “not her, not my daughter.” He snaps looking at me like he is ready to attack me.

“I’m sorry old friend, I don’t make the rules and I was drawn to her.” I tell him sadly.

“I don’t care, it can be any other girl but not my daughter.” His voice rises throughout his sentence until he is practically shouting at me.

“What’s going on dad?” Seraphine asks looking between her dad and me.

Phillon leads us all through to a small room with some chairs and has us all sit down as he explains everything about the prophecy and myself to Seraphine. By the end of the conversation he is almost in tears and Seraphine looks like the world has just dropped out from underneath her while I sit there hating the world more than usual.

“I don’t love you.” Seraphine blurts out before quickly adding, “I mean your good looking in a rugged warrior kind of way but I don’t know you, apart from the stories dad has told me.”

She looks scared but angry at the same time like she blames me for everything that is happening and I guess in a way I am, if I had ignored the pull of the summoning magic then I wouldn’t be here and the prophecy wouldn’t have any bearing on Seraphines life. I hate that I’m about to ruin her life but if I had stayed away then she would be dead within a week.

“And I don’t love you. But I have to take away from here, they will have sensed the start of the prophecy and they will be coming for you and they will kill you.” I tell her.

Phillon leaps up out of his seat and looms over me, his face is a mask of absolute rage and I half expect him to lash out at me at any second. Aodh must be thinking the same thing because he lunges to his feet growling at him and growing in size.

“Aodh, it’s ok.” I tell him but instead of lying back down and shrinking back to normal size he just sits down next to my chair.

“Who will come for her? Who will try and kill her?” Phillon roars at me.

“The Fire Brand clan and they wont try they will.” I tell him before turning my gaze on Seraphine, “if you stay here they will kill you and your family before burning this house to the ground and no one can stop them.”

I wait a moment for what I’ve said to sink in, I can see that it has when Phillon sits back down and looks over at his daughter with tears in his eyes.

“If you come with me they will leave your family alone, they will still hunt the two of us but I used to be one of them, I know how they think, what they will do and more importantly how they fight.” I tell her.

I admire her in a way, throughout the whole of this she hasn’t freaked out or teared up but has steadily held my gaze. I sigh and decide to tell her the rest of my plan.

“I plan on changing the prophecy, making it so we aren’t a threat to the gods but in a way that means we both get to live.” I explain, “I have met quite a few interesting characters over my many years on this planet and I think that with the help of some of them we might be able to do this.”

“Why do you keep saying gods?” Seraphine asks, “there is only one God.” She states like it is an absolute fact.

“The God that the King forces on people is a lie designed to make people feel safe, do you really think an all powerful being would be good? Kind? Merciful?” I ask her rhetorically, “we were created in this Gods image to be a mortal form of him then how do you explain the fact that once someone gains any amount of power they lord it over everyone else and uses it to control others?”

I can tell by the look on her face that she has seen what I was referring to happen before, maybe back in school or something she had overheard or possibly seen in the royal courts but she had definitely seen what I was talking about happen.

“That God they speak of is a lie but there are beings out there so powerful that they can create and destroy life with a thought. Over the centuries people have called them gods while other have called them demons or devils.” I tell her, “you might have heard of some of them Aodh the namesake of my companion, Styrik the goddess of death, Valotan the god of violence, or maybe even The Great Fire the creator of the Fire Brand, Hellhounds and Dragons. Even your name is derived from one of these beings, Seraphina.”

“So the prophecy says that together we will kill these gods and because of that your family is hunting us.” Seraphine says sounding scared.

“That's why I’m here to protect you and try to change the prophecy so you can live your life in peace.” I tell her.

“How do we do this?” She asks looking frightened but determined.

“We need to leave the city, this will be the first place they come and if they find us here they will try to kill us and your family and I don’t want that to happen.” I tell her before looking at Phillon so he understands the risks of trying to keep his daughter here.

“And if they come here once you are gone?” Phillon asks looking concerned.

“Tell them that we have gone to see Finwyll then they should leave you alone.” I tell him hoping that I’m right.

“Where are you going?” He asks looking from me to his daughter.

“To see Finwyll.” I tell him.

“Why would you want me to tell them exactly where you’re going?” He shouts the question at me the anger obvious on his face.

“Because Finwyll isn’t in a physical place, they can follow us to Finwyll but they won’t find us.” I tell him cryptically.

I don’t like that I’m being so cryptic but I have to keep him in the dark about what we are doing because if he knows where and what we are going to be doing and the clan thinks he is lying to them then they will get the truth out of him in the most painful way possible.

“Why won’t you give me a straight answer?” Phillon roars at me his anger rising.

“Because it is safer for both us and you if don’t know what we are doing.” I tell him softly trying to calm him down.

I am quickly running out of patience, the only reason I didn’t just drag Seraphine away without letting her speak to her dad is because of my history with Phillon and the respect I have for him but I am very close to just walking out of his home and letting him deal with the consequences. I watch with rising annoyance as Phillon opens his mouth to shout at me again but I’m relieved when Seraphine speaks first.

“It’s ok dad, I’m going with uncle Larcon and I know he will keep me safe.” She says sounding completely certain that I will be able to protect her and keep her safe.

Phillon's face falls and I can’t blame him, I know he has knows some of the stories of the adventures and challenges I’ve faced and while I think he believes I can protect Seraphine he also knows of the danger we will face and what kind of parent would he be if he wasn’t worried for his daughter.

“I’m sure he will try but look out for yourself too, Larcon can’t look after you all the time.” He tells her, his eyes filling with tears, “remember everything I’ve taught you about defending yourself.”

Seraphine smiles at her dad and I feel another pang of guilt over the fact that I am having to rip her away from her family and obviously causing them pain and heartbreak.

“I remember dad, you don’t need to worry about me.” She says with a soft and nervous laugh.

“I’ll always worry about you.” He says pulling her into a tight hug.

“I’m going to pack a bag.” Searphine tells me starting to walk off into another room in the house.

“Stop.” I snap, one of my fears is coming true and one of the members of the Fire Brand clan is swiftly approaching the house.

“We don’t have any time, come here quick.” I snap scared that one of the clan could catch us this quickly. I look down at Aodh and sigh.

“We have to shadow step now, they’re here.” I tell Aodh as I extend a hand to Seraphine, “hold tight.” I tell her taking her hand.

The second I take Seraphines hand in my own the world drops out from around us, we weightlessly fall through the darkness as Aodh uses his shadow step magic to quickly get us out of the house and the city.

We fall out of the darkness and land hard on a patch of sharp rocks, I feel the rocks cut into my skin and I know the same thing has happened to Seraphine because I hear her hiss in pain next to me. I pull myself up from the rock and look down at Seraphine, I help her to her feet and then examine the wounds on her arms, legs and face.

‘I’m sorry, having to travel on such sort notice means I couldn’t choose exactly where we stopped.’ Aodh speaks telepathically.

“Did he just speak in my head?” Seraphine asks glancing from Aodh to myself.

“Yeah it’s his preferred form of communication, I’ve been told it can be a bit uncomfortable at first but that people tend to get used to it quickly.” I tell her as I pull my bag off my back and start to search through it for some balm for Seraphines wounds. It might take a little while because the bag has a spell on it so that it can hold much more than it should be able to.

“No it wasn’t uncomfortable, it felt right like it was natural and everyone should speak that way.” She says sounding like she is in awe of Aodh.

‘I like her.’ Aodh says with a slight laugh.

‘I like you as well Aodh.’ Seraphine says telepathically.

“Did you just use telepathy?” I ask Seraphine.

She shrugs and looks at me like what she had just done wasn’t a big deal when in reality it was a massive deal, there are very few people outside of the Fire Brand clan who can telepathically communicate with a Hellhound. I look at Aodh who is looking back at me in such a way that for the first time in many decades I can’t figure out what he is thinking.

“We need to find somewhere we can secure so I can visit Finwyll and maybe get some answers.” I tell Seraphine and Aodh.

‘How do we visit him?’ Seraphine asks her voice projecting straight into my head.

I don’t understand how she is able to speak to Aodh and myself, usually only another member of the Fire Brand clan or a Hellhound would be able to do so and only after we had established a link between us. That was the same for most of the of beings who could use telepathy except for the small amount of very powerful telepaths out there but the majority of those are psychics too and have been driven insane by their abilities and the constant barrage of other peoples most intimate thoughts and memories. Few of them lived long and you didn’t want to try and speak with one if they did, their insanity manifested itself through violence but not physical violence, the mind is a powerful thing and being able to change the thoughts and memories of a person can lead a person to death as surely as a blade in the chest.

I’m not sure how I feel about her being able to telepathically communicate with me, I haven’t had a second sane person speak to me like this for many, many years, the last time would have been other Fire Brand clan members back when I was still a part of the clan, since then almost every other person to speak to me in this manner was insane.

‘Uncle Larcon?’ Seraphines voice surprised me, I must have been distracted by my thoughts.

“Just call me Larcon.” I tell her shaking my head trying to push away the thoughts of insane psychics and memories of members of the clan.

‘Ok Larcon, how do we find Finwyll?’ She asks.

“We don’t, I do, you and Aodh will guard my body. I remember hearing Phillon say you could look after yourself, can you fight?” I asks her bluntly hoping she can, not many women get the opportunity to learn to fight.

‘I can fight but why would we need to guard your body?’ She questions me sounding utterly confused.

“Because Finwyll resides in the spirit realm and doesn’t ever leave there so to speak with him I have to go there too, meaning I have to die. For a while at least.” I tell her knowing that this will be shocking for her.

‘Death is pretty permanent.’ She says sounding semi hysterical.

“I wont actually die, I just trick myself into believing I’m dying.” I tell her before quickly explaining, “using a combination of spells I can slow my heartbeat down to the point where my soul thinks I’m dying so it splits away from my body and enters the spirit realm and then from there I search for Finwyll, a hour and a half later the spell wears off and my heart starts to speed back up and pulls my spirit back into my body.”

‘But what if the spell doesn’t wear off?’ She a little bit less panicked but it’s obvious she isn’t a fan of this plan.

“It has worked before so I don’t see why it shouldn’t work again now. If it doesn’t show any sign of wearing off after the hour and a half time has gone by then Aodh or you will have to break the spell, Aodh you remember how?” I ask even though I know he remembers how to break the spell I ask him the question anyway just to reassure Seraphine.

‘I remember.’ He huffs sounding offended that I would even need to ask.

‘Ok. Where do we go then?’ Seraphine asks.

“Somewhere easily defendable, a cave or something of the sorts would be preferable.” I tell her, “but first I want to see what you can do with a sword.”

I pull a short scabbard from my bag, the scabbard is no bigger than a medium sized dagger but when magic comes into play nothing is what it seems.

‘But this is a dagger.’ She sounds like she doesn’t know how to use a dagger but she doesn’t need to worry.

“Just draw the blade.” I tell her.

Seraphine sighs but releases the catch on the scabbard and pulls on the hilt thinking she is drawing just a dagger from the sheath but when the blades just keeps coming until she pulls a full sized steel sword from the scabbard with a slight laugh she turns to look at me.

‘Magic?’ She asks sounding a bit in awe of what she had just experienced.

“Yes a helpful spell that makes the inside of things like bags and sheathes bigger than they appear with no extra weight.” I tell her proud of my handiwork.

“Now show me some of what you know.” I tell her wanting to see if she is capable of defending herself or if I will need to have Aodh look out for her while I visit the spirit world, if that is the case I will train her once I return.

I’m satisfied when Seraphine runs through some basic training drills and shows me some basic slash and stab movements. I whisper a quick phrase and an ethereal sword materialises in my hand, I move into a fighting stance and point the sword at Seraphine.

“Let’s see how you deal with an opponent.” I tell her as I circle around her.

Her eyes don’t leave me as she turns with me never letting me out of her field of vision, a smart move but I want to see how she fights against a person.

“Ready?” I ask her, she nods her head in confirmation and the sparring session begins.

I decide to hold back my strength and fight her using about as much strength as an average person. I lunge at Seraphine, I bring my ethereal sword singing down at her which she easily blocks with her steel sword while grinning at me the whole time. She looks like she is enjoying herself as she blocks a couple more swings and even tries to get in a swing of her own and falling short but only after I take a step backwards, I lunge aiming for a stab ready to use my added strength to pull out of the knife so I wouldn’t actually cut her with the sword.

Seeing my move Seraphine tries to hop backwards away from me but her long dress catches on a rock and she stumbles falling onto her back with a grunt of pain. I click my fingers and the ethereal sword turns to smoke and then dissipates as I reach my hand down to help Seraphine stand, she grips my hand and I help her get to her feet, she stands there scowling down at her dress with frustration.

“I'm sure I have some clothes that will fit you and are better suited to fighting in my bag.” I tell her shrugging my bag off of my back and reaching into it, “could you change and try again, I want to see what you can really do.”

‘Ok. I can do that.’ She tells me accepting the two pairs of light leather armoured trouser and a light leather armoured chest plate and two woollen tops to go underneath the chest plate.

I wait as Seraphine walks a little ways into the woods to get changed, she returns a moment later holding onto her dress and the spare trousers and woollen top.

“Hold onto them, you might need spares.” I tell her as I hand her a bag with a similar spell cast on it as my own bag so it can hold more than it should be able to and weigh nothing more than the bag itself does.

‘Thank you.’ She says putting the clothes into the bag and securing it on her back.

Seraphine hops from foot to foot and then backwards and forward testing out the manoeuvrability of her new clothes, she swings the sword a few times smiling slightly before looking at me determinedly, raising the steel sword and shifting her body into a fighting position.

‘I’m ready.’ Her voice sounds level and confident.

‘She wouldn't be fighting alone either.’ Aodh says stepping up next to Seraphine.

The glowing red eyes of Aoad’s natural form look to be shining brighter than usual with an excited glint I haven't seen for a while, he has a plan, I can tell it from his body language but I can’t figure out what the plan is.

‘I’ll be fighting with her. So I think we should try it now.’ He says pulling his lips up into a grin and revealing his long, vicious looking teeth.

“Good idea but I won’t be holding back, are you both ready for that?” I ask both Aodh and Seraphine.

Aodh doesn’t reply, I know he is going to do this. Seraphine looks nervous but I’m almost certain that she is going to fight against me with Aodh so it’s no surprise when she nods her head showing me that she is ready for this.

“Ok, let’s do this then.” I tell them looking forward to this, Aodh has a plan and I want to see what he is going to do.

I start to circle around them and I instantly see what their plan is, Aodh will distract me and Seraphine will try to get behind me and attempt to use my blind spots to her advantage. I track the pair as they manoeuvre themselves into position with Aodh directly in front of me and Seraphine behind me, Aodh launches himself at me and I know that he is trying to make me attempt to block him which will leave me wide open for Seraphine to attack but I wont be fooled by such an obvious ploy.

I duck barely dodging one of Aodh sharp claws as his huge paw sails past my head, I spin and bring my ethereal sword swinging up to parry what I expect to be a downward swing from Seraphine but my sword sails up meeting no resistance. I look up to see that Seraphine had taken a couple steps back away from me so Aodh would land between us.

I have no idea what they are doing but I prepare for their next attack, I expect them to do the same thing and manoeuvre so that Aodh is in front of me and Seraphine is behind me but I’m caught by surprise when Aodh leaps at me and Seraphine charges towards me while staying just behind Aodh. I understand what they are trying to do but I can block this move, I whisper a quick phrase and an ethereal sword appears in my free hand meaning I now have a sword in both hands.

I bring one blade up and deflect Aodh knocking him away and quickly bringing up my second blade expecting Seraphine to be right behind Aodh and ready to strike me with her sword but again she has gone against my expectations and hasn’t attempted to strike me. I look up and see Seraphine standing not far forward from where she had been when I had seen her before they started the attack. I shout in surprise and pain as I feel a blade slice through my side not deep enough to put me in any real danger but enough to hurt and surprise me, the Seraphine I had been looking at crumbles and turns to ash as the real Seraphine appears next to me holding the sword that had just cut me.

‘I’m sorry Larcon, are you ok?’ Seraphine sounds scared and concerned as she takes a step towards me and lowers her blade.

I drop my ethereal blades and grab Seraphine’s regular steel blade with one hand on either side of the blade so as to not slice my hands open and pull jerking the sword out of her grip and tossing it away from her. The second that Seraphine’s blade hits the floor Aodh leaps at me from behind, I don’t hear him coming until the last second and it is too late for me to summon an ethereal weapon to fend him off, it is also too late to get out of the way of his attack so I do the only thing I can and move with him.

I let Aodh slam into me but instead of falling on my stomach like he wants me to I instead curl myself up so I roll away from him using the force from his blow to propel me forward. I come out of the roll and quickly summon a small one handed ethereal battle axe for both hands. I look up and see Aodh only a couple of steps away from me snarling and looking like a rabid beast while Seraphine is standing frozen in the same spot she had been in when I took her sword from her with a look of shock and fear on her face

“Come on then.” I roar at both of them, “this isn’t over until one of you land what could be a killing blow or until I do the same to the both of you.”

I had told them that I wouldn’t give up easily and I wont, I want this to simulate a true battle for them, I want to quickly get Seraphine used to the feeling of having to fight for her life because this is going to be her life now until either we manage to change the prophecy or until the day she dies. I spin the axes in my hands as I advance on Aodh, I think Seraphine is trying to use the same illusionary magic she had before which could be a problem because she also becomes invisible and I have no idea where she is or if the version of her standing still with a look of shock on her face isn’t the real Seraphine.

I watch not moving as Aodh starts to move towards me, I’m pretty certain that he is going to leap at me again any second now so I shift my weight ready to drop down and catch his soft stomach with the blade of one of the axes. I watch as he tenses his legs ready to launch himself at me, his body weight shifts and his paws leave the floor as he launches himself at me so in one quick motion I drop to one knee and thrust upwards with the flat back of the axe thinking I will hit his stomach and get him out of the fight.

I roar a very loud and vulgar curse or five as Aodh’s mouth clamps around my right arm, his long sharp teeth only just breaking the skin, I don’t feel much pain at all but the surprise of it has me reeling and now I have to try and get him off of me before Seraphine makes her move.

‘Now you’re dead.’ Seraphine’s voice pops into my head sounding ecstatic as I feel the point of her steel sword press against my back between my shoulder blades and pointed down towards my heart.

I’m surprised and in shock from what has just happened, I haven’t been bested in a fight for a very long while and now I have lost a sparring session to a girl with no real experience in battle and has only basic sword wielding training working with Aodh my very own soul bound Hellhound who has never beat me in a fight before. I can’t believe this turn of events but I can’t deny the fact that I am proud of what has just happened and I feel safer about the fact that they will be watching over me when I go to visit Finwyll because I will be totally vulnerable.

“Ok lets go find a cave or somewhere we can defend easily.” I tell Aodh and Seraphine as I take a glass jar from my bag, pop the lid and apply the salve to the sword wound on my side and the bite wounds on my arm caused by Aodh.
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