Fin slowly reached into his coat, exaggerating his movements in order for the officer to see he was simply grabbing his credentials. “I was already here. Investigating a possible breach of the Damp Field.” Fin held out his badge, showing the silver insignia of a sword crossed by a lightning bolt to the officer.
The officer lowered his gun, but didn’t holster it. He stepped forward and grabbed the badge. He slowly holstered his weapon, running a finger over the Conduit insignia. “A possible breach? What could cause that?” The police officer turned his smooth face back to Fin, finally handing the badge back.
“First time meeting a Conduit?” Fin brushed his blonde hair away from his face as he tucked his badge away. His hand once again found the comforting grip of his sword.
The officer nodded, trying unsuccessfully to brush ash from his uniform. “I was just getting coffee at the shop over there,” he motioned behind him, “when I heard the explosion, and the ash started to fall.” The officer looked around. Some people were still running, but most were just shuffling around aimlessly, dazed looks masking their faces.
“Well, you get these people…” Fin trailed off as a he noticed a slight shift in the air. It was small, barely noticeable, but completely unexpected in a Damp Field. The ash had slowed for a moment, instead of falling.
Fin’s sword was out of its sheath in a streak of silver. He struck it point first into the asphalt street like a lightning rod. The sword glimmered, runes shimmering across the silver blade. “Everybody down!” Energy crackled around him, stirring his blonde hair and coat into a twisting frenzy. The earth jumped, and a giant fireball belched toward down the street. Fin threw his hands toward the fireball, his grey pupils disappearing as his eyes erupted into silver orbs. He reached into his soul, channeling power, and pushed. The fireball shuttered, and split in two, roaring through cars and buildings leaving behind a hellish smear of black nothing. As it passed, Fin turned, throwing his hands into the air and planting his feet. The fireballs lifted from the ground, curving slowly up into the sky. He spread his fingers, using his magic to separate the fire. The fireballs ripped apart, like freshly baked rolls, dispersing the massive energy into the air. There was a sound like a thunderclap, knocking everyone but Fin to the ground, and the fireballs were gone.
“Everyone okay?” Fin glanced around as he helped the officer to his feet. People looked dirty and shaken, but he couldn’t see any visible injuries.
“What the hell was that? How was that even possible?”
“You need to get these people out of here. The Damp Field’s down, and I’ve only seen fireballs like this when I was learning about the War of Souls.”
The officer’s eyes widened. “You’re telling me that this was a deliberate attack?”
Fin nodded, eyes smoldering. “Yes, by Soulless. Now get these people out of here. I need to contact my people.”
The officer nodded, running towards the civilians huddled around the street. He barked orders, gathering them up and moving down the street toward safety.
Fin turned toward where the fireball had come from. Smoke billowed from wrecked buildings, perfect spheres missing where the fireballs had passed through them. He stood next to his sword, still planted in the street. Touching the diamond at the end of the hilt, he opened his mind to contact Conduit command. <Damp Field breach confirmed. There has been a magical attack. No visual yet, but I can confirm it is Soulless. Civilians are still evacuating, and I am going to ensure that they do so safely.>
A voice shot back into his mind. <Negative, Fin. It’s too dangerous to engage the Soulless alone. Pull back and wait for backup.>
Fin closed his eyes, breathing slowly, nose filling with the acrid smell of burning rubber, drywall, and insulation from the buildings and cars around him. <I can’t do that, Grace. There are people here still. Backup won’t arrive in time.>
<Fin, you are too valuable to…>
Fin lifted his hand from the diamond and closed his mind. He stood by his sword, and waited for the Soulless.
“We haven’t had a Soulless attack like this since New York was destroyed.” Fin talked to no one.
Through the smoke and falling ash of burning ruins, a figure materialized, walking toward Fin. It was hard to make out, and Fin waited, fists clenched, for the figure to get closer. A gust of wind blasted through the smoke, clearing his view, and his eyes narrowed into silver slits. Walking toward him was a figure with flaming red hair, white skin, and black eyes. The Soulless.
Fin focused his soul, the well of his magic, concentrating on the diamond in his sword. He pointed at the Soulless and a brilliant beam of white light shot from the diamond, piercing the Soulless’s chest. It staggered, but kept walking. Fin pointed again, another brilliant beam firing, but before it hit, Fin opened his fingers, and the beam fractured into thousands of tiny beams that pierced the Soulless’s body. The Soulless stumbled and tripped, but didn’t fall. Black eyes stared in Fin’s silver ones, and he barely had enough time to shield himself as the Soulless’s hair ruffled, disturbed by the energy as a fireball materialized, rocketing toward Fin. With no one around to protect, he caught the fireball in a web of energy, sucking the air away from it. The fireball sputtered, and Fin threw his own energy at it, shattering the fireball into a shower of sparks that rained around him. He shaped the air, curving it into a cone that redirected the concussive blast back toward the Soulless. The shockwave ripped through the street, smashing cars aside like toys and blasting a line of ash clean from the street directly toward the Soulless. The force of the blast knocked Fin to his knees, and cracks spidered through the asphalt. The smoke was momentarily blasted away, and Fin could see what was behind the Soulless.
There was nothing. All that lay behind the Soulless were ashen ruins and twisted remains of buildings that still burned and spewed their remains into the sky. Unable to control himself, Fin gasped and sank to the ground. The devastation was absolute. Fin’s eyes refocused, and he saw the Soulless, still standing where it was before. And Fin swore he saw the hint of a smile on its face, a small flash of what he could only imagine were pointed teeth. It pointed to a pile of ash, and vanished, like a smudged drawing. Fin watched as the pile of ash twisted and contorted, piling upon itself over and over as it started to take shape. Was it standing up?
“Oh my God…”
The pile was packing itself together, and Fin could make out legs, a torso, arms. It stood in front of him, a smooth, white humanoid. Except its face. Bloody, red eyes looked like they had been placed into gouged out sockets. And its mouth was lipless, full of row upon row of gnashing teeth.
Fin slowly climbed to his feet. He touched his fingers to the diamond. <Grace, the Soulless is gone. It created a Thief.>
There was silence that seemed to stretch far longer than it should. <Are you sure? We’ve never actually seen one before.>
Fin stared into those lidless, red eyes. The Thief shuffled, but hadn’t made a move toward him yet. <Positive.>
<Backup will be there in a few minutes. Get out of there, now!>
<I can’t just leave. The Thief will go for civilians.>
<That’s a risk we have to take.>
<No, Grace, it’s not. I’m sworn to protect.>
<Sworn to protect the greater good! Not to waste your life for a handful of mundane civilians! Now get out of there!>
<You know I can’t, Grace.> Fin let his fingers fall from the diamond.
The Thief was still standing there, just watching him.
“Are you as afraid of me as I am of you? I’ve only read stories and seen photos of your kind. Have you ever seen a Conduit before?” Fin pointed at the Thief, and a brilliant beam of white light shot from the diamond and pierced one of the Thief’s eyes. It left a gaping hole, half of its head missing. But the hole was already filling back in with ash.
“I suppose you won’t tell me how to kill you?” Fin glanced around. The streets were empty. He and the Thief were alone.
The Thief’s head cocked to one side, and then it blurred. Fin blurred too, his heart pounding in his chest as he accelerated his body. The world around him slowed to crawl, the falling ash seemingly suspended in place as he forced his body to move faster than the eye could see. But the Thief was faster. He felt fire burning up his leg, across his stomach, and over his right arm. Without looking at his injuries, he maintained the accelerated speed of the Thief and shot beam after beam of light toward it. Each time he hit, ash simply refilled any of the wounds he managed to inflict. The Thief lunged at him, and Fin tumbled and retrieved his sword, yanking it from ground and slashing at the Thief. Its arm fell to the ground with a soft thump.
“Well, that seemed to…”
Ash poured from the stump, forming back into a smooth, white arm.
“Not work.” Fin stumbled, pain shooting across his leg, stomach, and arm from his wounds. He gritted his teeth, tightening his grip on his sword and swung, sidestepping the Thief’s lunge, the silver blade slicing through its head. The top half slid off, ash spilling down as its head reformed. It came at him again, and Fin barely deflected its swiping attack. He stumbled back, dropping his sword point first into the ground. The Thief stood in front of him, red eyes and black mouth full of gnashing teeth gaping at him. Pulling energy from his soul, he sunk his sword into the ground as energy crackled like tiny silver sparks around his hand. He grabbed a handful of ash and swung, a pale sword twisting and forming like smoke. Those red eyes were coming closer and closer, and Fin could see the black abyss behind the rows and rows of teeth. The sword he conjured drifted away, and he was breathing heavily. There were two soft thumps behind him. He turned around, and saw the two halves of the Thief that had fallen on either side of him. He smiled, a tight pull of his lips against the pain gripping his body, as he fell to his knees, noticing for the first time, the spiral of his blood across the debris around him. And then it was dark.