Book 4 Chapter 15

Lucci stood over the yawning mouth of the Dragon’s Cleft. He’d never visited the Cleft before, and only saw the deep squiggly line on some of Master ZenToYa’s old maps. The maps that Master TsuYa never let him touch, despite his great interest.

However, he knew that this was the Cleft. He heard too many stories of the great divide that Lord Zemi created long, long ago to protect the North Clans from the encroaching destroyers that sought to hunt them down.

I wonder what happened to make them fight so terribly.

Lucci’s feet carried him over the soft yellow-green grasses of the Spiral lands. He was on the Outterland side, looking back into the shadows that covered his homelands. Towards Nefol, the place where he was born, but didn’t remember seeing. The place where Zeromus was waiting, and his dark blade would fulfill its final destiny.

Suzume said that my last dream was probably of a place inside of Nefol.

The young Sygnus shivered a bit. Every time he thought of the dark dream, it frightened him. He saw visions within the Mists before, but this dream felt so real. The memory of Master TsuYa’s twisted image haunted Lucci with the guilt of the things he didn’t do to save his once-teacher.

Master TsuYa was gruff, but he went against his father’s wishes to help train me. As much as he loves Master ZenToYa, that meant a lot. I realize that now.

Lucci still didn’t understand why Master TsuYa chose to do what he did. When so many others denied the young Sygnus training, thinking that he would one day become too dangerous, the dark-eyed warrior took up the call.

I’ll probably never know now.

The young Sygnus grimaced to himself.

I can’t think like that. I have to believe that we can bring him back somehow.

One fist balled at his side, he gave a curt nod. Then he picked his way down the side of a steep hillside. Slipping and sliding, Lucci landed in a patch of speckled flowers. Grass and blooms waved back and forth in the soft breezes, having a luminous and unreal quality. Even the silver mists that usually followed him were dim.

It must be the effect of the Cleft. I heard that it had magical properties, and that’s part of what kept invaders from getting in. I wonder if it will be enough to keep Zerom from passing over.

There was no direct path to the Cleft’s Passage. Not that Lucci expected there to be. The Passage was the only place where anyone could cross over the Cleft, but it only responds to the powers of one of Lord Zemi’s servants. So, only certain people could safely cross over.

Which means, I could be out of luck,unless something unusual happens.

Unusual things did seem to happen around the young Sygnus, whether he liked it or not.

I don’t even know if I can identify where the Passage is, even if I did see it. Maybe that’s something only Zemi’s people can do, too.

The young Sygnus sucked on his bottom lip, peering into the depths. The chasm looked like it stretched downwards for eternity. A sickly colored fog churned within, growing thicker the closer to the center, until everything was obscured with cloud and darkness.

There was no sign of a bridge or any sort of Passage.

This isn’t going to work. Is it?

Lucci gave a disgruntled frown, his fingers brushing over the hilt of the long, dark-bladed sword on his back. Feeling it there made him stop. He didn’t remember bringing the weapon. In fact, he really didn’t remember making the trip there to the Cleft.

How far did he travel?

How long did it take?

Did anyone know he was gone?

Does it matter? If I told them what I wanted to do, they would just try to stop me.

The grip of the blade felt good in his hand. Reassuring. The longer that he kept possession of it, the more comforting its presence became, until lately, it was more difficult to leave behind in the corner of his guest room.

I wonder why I was afraid of it to begin with. Nothing bad has come from it.

It seemed like so long ago, the day he climbed the dark stairs of the obelisk, unknowing what was at the top. And now, armed with the sword he found there, he stood on the edge of the Inner Realms, seeking a way to return and overthrow the Chaos that devoured his homelands.

If I can just find a way across.

His breath misted out in soft clouds, alerting him to how cold it was as he approached the Cleft. The sound of hissing was sharp in his ears, something he took to be his shivering breathing. It was only when sound shifted that he realized it was not.


His silver eyes narrowed, prickles running over his skin. He peered out into the rising fog with a frown.

Now I’m just hearing things.

The young Sygnus rubbed his hands together to warm them, and continued walking the length of the Cleft. When the sound came again, he realized it was not his imagination.

-Luuuushhhhi… I will find you.-

“What?” Lucci spun around, staring into the gaping darkness again. A pressure unfolded in the fog, somewhere in the Cleft ahead of him, a feeling he didn’t sense before. “Who’s there?”

-I will bring you home.-

“Home? What are you talking about?” his frown grew sharper.

-And all will be as it should have been. You and I. Father and son.-

“No!” Lucci stumbled back with widened eyes. “Forget it! I don’t want to come with you!”

-Such harsh, harsh words, my child.-

“You are no father to me!”

-Oh, but I am. No matter what the Dreigiau tells you. There are some things you cannot change by will alone.-

The young Sygnus’ hand gripped the hilt of his blade, glaring sharply. He saw it now. The darkness gathered and slowly consumed the shifting fog, blotting it out with a shadow darker than deepest night.

“I won’t come with you. I won’t be your tool,” Lucci snarled. “If you and I meet, it will be where I destroy you!”

-We shall see, child.-

The tone was so condescending. Dripping with so much arrogance. As much as Lucci wanted to fight back the anger, he found the slender dark blade drawn.

You think I can’t do it. You try to convince me that I’m something special. Yet you’re really no different than the people in Ceiswyr. You look down on me, too.

Tendrils of shadow erupted through the cloud of fog, bursting through with a force that rocked the earth. Lucci fought to keep his balance, but ended up sprawled on the ground. His silver eyes widened as stream after stream of shadow shot from the center of the Cleft, breaking down the barriers that had existed there for so long. Opening the way for the darkness to come through.

“No!” Lucci’s shout was hoarse as he scrambled to his feet. Hands numb with cold, he fumbled to lift his blade again. He saw the tip of it shaking with overwhelming fear.

-We shall test your courage soon.-


That’s when he saw it. Shapes seething and shifting in the heart of the shadow. The scent of putrid rot and decay choked the air in his throat. Hisses and snarls, animalistic growls. And one long, terribly familiar shriek.

No! The Marked!

Lucci backed away, throwing one hand over his ears. He was too horrified to gather his senses to run. He knew that even he couldn’t take on all of Zeromus’ dark army, and senses alone told him, that it was nearly the entire army crossing the Cleft.

But how? Only one of Zemi’s…

The fog parted and vision cleared. Lucci nearly fell over himself stumbling back. His eyes locked on the figure at the head of the army, far larger than the rest of the Marked. The black eyes. Grey skin. Dark hair and wings. Wicked, black bladed scythe. The streak of startling white that gleamed almost maliciously now.

Master TsuYa.

And he realized.

Zeromus is using Master TsuYa to unlock the Passage! Maybe because he Awakened before becoming Marked, it still reacts to Master TsuYa’s energies!

The dead, black eyes fell upon the young Sygnus. This time, there was nothing behind the gaze that felt like Master TsuYa at all. The lips curled back, cracking and caked with black blood. Black wings unfolded, sending the last traces of fog scattering away. The blade lifted, too dark to reflect the dim light.

Lucci screamed, lifting his own dark blade in defense. Just as the scythe sparked off of the flat of his sword, the world jolted around him. Reeling backwards in pain and terror, he fell.

Then, with a gasp, he sat up. Staring around, Lucci found himself splayed out on the floor next to his bed, his sheets tangled around his arms and legs. Lucci wiped the sweat from his face with shaky hands, staring around in disorientation. It took a few minutes before he calmed his breath and realized where he was.

Another dream?

He unwrapped the sheets and tossed them in a wad on the bed. Then he stumbled over to the wash basin and splashed his face with the cooling water.

Or was it? Everything seemed so real. Again.

When he looked outside, the world was just on the fringe of twilight. Gold stone reflected the hues of the overstretching sky. The twinkle of early rising stars shimmered down from above. A random Spiral warrior patrolled the streets, keeping watch over the houses as the light slipped away. All seemed quiet and at peace.

Yet, the unease grew more difficult to bear the longer Lucci stood and looked.

It could be possible.

His hands tightened on the window sill.

The Cleft is far enough away that we wouldn’t know it. Not unless there are Spiral guards there.

Lucci’s scowl grew sharper.

Against a full army of Marked, what guard is going to live to make it back to call an alarm?

The young Sygnus turned, hand reaching out for the grip of the dark blade. Then he stopped.

But what if it is just a dream? This wasn’t the first one… it could be that Zeromus is sending nightmares to scare me. Suzume said a similar thing happened to Master TsuYa.

His fingers hovered over the dark glittering blade in uncertainty.

If I run out to call a false alarm, what will they think of me? That the curse of the Bane is taking control? That I’m losing my mind like the Sygni do?

Troubled, Lucci shook his head.

And if it is real, if there is an army of Marked coming through the Cleft, led by Master TsuYa? If I know about this attack and I don’t tell. If people die because I don’t call an alarm.

Gritting his teeth, he snatched up the grip of the blade in his hand. It took a moment to strap the wide leather lash over his shoulder and keep it out of the tangle of his long silver hair.

I can’t let that happen. It’s better to call a false alarm than to let people get hurt. No matter what people think of me.

Rushing out of his chambers, the young Sygnus began to search the quiet streets. He heard that Lord Zemi and the others were going into the Lion’s Keep. He wasn’t sure what they were looking for, but it seemed important. As did the fact that a new leader for the Spiral was just named.

Lucci could still see the remnants of the celebration from that afternoon. Though the Spiral people weren’t much in the way of party-goers, there were some things that they felt were important enough to commemorate. There was food, some music and a little dancing. Mostly people gathering in the wide square, congratulating the new leader.

With the coming of night, most took their celebration home with them. Such was the way of the people of the Spiral.

If everyone’s gone, who can I talk to?

Lucci cast about from house to house, looking for a familiar face. A guide. Anyone who might believe his story and not look down on him for telling it.

As he searched, he passed the foot of the stairs at the Lion’s Keep. From somewhere above, he heard a soft, familiar voice. A voice grew to trust as a child, and one that he knew wouldn’t turn him away.

Aunt Sara!

Quickly, the young Sygnus turned to race up the steps.