Chapter One-Don\'t Touch Me

”Dr. Agula, I have noticed some irregular brain waves in the Arkane, hes regaining consciousness. ”

”Dose him with the strongest sedative, we cannot have him wake. ” Dr. Agula replied.

”Yes sir, but you must understand that sedatives might not work on him. Over the years we have had to change the contents of the sedative to keep him asleep. The new serum will not work for much longer and we have yet to develop anything stronger that will not kill the Arkane. ”

Dr. Agula snatched the scientist by the lapels of her lab coat and snarled, ”I do not care what it takes, the Arkane must not be allowed to awaken. If it is eternal sleep so be it, better a dead Arkane then one awake who realizes that his Grimoire is gone. ”

The scientist gently pried Dr. Agulas hands from her lapels and said, ”I understand sir. ”

Dr. Agula peered through the thick lazar-proof glass into the bright white room in which the Arkane lay strapped to a medical table, dormant.

Gods look at him, he thought, hes magnificent.

He had been extremely fortunate that he captured the Arkane and what a specimen he was. Usually, it was nearly impossible to capture an Arkane or a Grimoire given as it is extremely rare to find them separated. The Arkane which lay before him had done something foolish, he had done something to make his Grimoire leave. Without a Grimoire, an Arkane cannot use his powers. Even though he was powerless now, it did not impede the fact that he was still essential to Pendulum and the continued growth of the human race.

It never ceased to amaze Dr. Agula that something so foreign and mysterious could appear human. The creature that lay in a drug-induced sleep could have fooled anyone, including himself. The Arkane looked like a regular male in his late twenties, topping off at 6 9 ”, he was quite taller than human males. His muscles were denser, making him ten times stronger.

The Arkanes skin was much darker than the pale humans who have not seen the sky in centuries. Although most bathed in the lights of artificial suns, their tans seemed fake in comparison. Never had he seen such an olive hue. The only physical aspect that differed from humans was the color of their eyes. Their eyes were always such a bright and intense hue that they glowed.

This particular Arkane had such livid green eyes and made all cringe who looked straight into their orbs. Though during his research, he had only seen the eyes a handful of times. The facility was more interested in the Arkanes skin, blood and mana, than the reason behind glowing eyes.

Though they captured the Arkane nearly twenty-six years ago, they still did not know what his face looked like. A top his countenance sat a paper-thin white mask; it obscured most of his mien except for his eyes, lower lip and chin. Five-inch, thick lengths of fabric flowed from the top of the mask.

By feel, the fabric was silk but it remained impervious to every attempt to destroy it. The strips of material were six feet long and filled with arcane script, symbols and glyphs, which all seemed to flow upwards into the face of the mask.

Underneath the mask flowed crimson hair, they had cut and shaved his hair so many times, it did not matter now; it grew back impervious to their ministrations. They now kept it tied back in an elegant french braid sitting between his shoulder blades.

Every method they had tried to remove the mask failed. There were many mysteries behind the mask but one fact was for certain, such an object could only be the Arkanes Athamè.

An Athamè is an Arkanes or Grimoires weapon. The Athamè was much more mysterious, they have never had the chance to observe the weapon in action, their function remained completely foreign.

Suddenly, the high-pitched wail of a machine broke through Dr. Agulas thoughts, dozens of white coat scientists scurried to decipher the problem.

”Dr. Agula! ” a panicked voice called. A scientist ran up to him, he recognized her as the same woman he had talked to minutes before. He took a moment to glance at the name tag.

”What is it, Dr.Harper? ”

”The Arkanes heart has flatlined. ”

”How unfortunate. Prepare the body for preservation, he may be dead but he is still valuable. ”

”Of course. ” With that said, she spun so sharply that the long coil of her braid whipped fiercely striking his cheek with surprising ferocity. It would leave a mark.

At any other moment he would have demanded an apology and issued a punishment, now was not the time especially with a dead Arkane in his section. As Dr. Harpers sharp heels ran towards her station barking orders along the way, he realized her braid would attack her comrades as she passed by. She seemed completely oblivious to the fact that she was literally putting their backs to the whip; he noticed none of the scientists hit with the coil of her hair reacted, even one who had been struck in the eye.

They were either used to it or too focused on the task at hand to register the pain. Both thoughts caused sivers to dance on his palms.

As suddenly as the alarms began, they ceased. The room became a din of confused murmurs while the doctors scuttled even faster to decipher the problem.

”What is it now? ” he demanded.

As soon as a doctor opened his mouth to respond, a brilliant flash of emerald light blinded the workers, including Dr. Agula.

A cacophony of shouts filled the room and every single person raised their arms in unison to blockade the light.

Dr. Harper was the first to react. ”Shut off the power before he blows it. ”

Instead of waiting for her commands to be issued, she ran to the main wall and pulled the two main power switches. A loud whoosh ensued when the generators powered down. The machines and computers flickered as their life was cut.

Though the lights were off, the scientists still had means in which to see, the Arkane himself glowed with emerald light. He sat straight from his table and easily snapped his restraints like they were made of fine glass, not of steel.

Dr. Aguls eyes widened as the Arkane snapped his ankle restraints, stood and flexed his stiff muscles.

The Arkane had been nude during his entire captivity but he had not been intimidating. Now that the Arkane had awakened and stood at his full six foot and nine inches, the man was terrifying indeed.

Dr. Agula knew the look and feel of mana use, this Arkane should not have been able to access it. Mana, the magical source which flows in all beings, only Arkanes and Grimoires were able to access it without the use of a mana stone.

The Arkane took a few steps towards the glass, raised his left hand to his face and placed it on the mask he wore. The material seemed to float off his mien and towards his hand. The Arkane then placed the mask upon the air before him. It hovered shoulder height, then the Arkane punched his right hand forward into the backside of the mask.

The mask did not falter; instead, his arm disappeared into its depths. When his arm retracted, it pulled fabric from the base of the domino. The Arkane immediately donned them. The black and crimson chequered cloth flowed about him before settling upon his shoulders. He tucked the right side underneath the left in a robe-like manner; then tied a crimson cloth about his waist.

”Where is she? ” he asked, voice soft and sleepy but resonated throughout the room. Every person shivered and they fought the urge to yawn.

”Dr. Harper! What is going on? He should not be able to use mana! ”

”I told you sir that the serum may not continue to work on him. I do not know why he can use mana, he should not be able to without his Grimoire. ”

The Arkane took another step and once again placed the mask before him; robes billowing in an unseen wind. He placed his hand atop the glass and said ”Release me. ”

Dr. Agula, finding the courage, took a step forward and said, ”As if I would release you, it took us far too long to capture you. What makes you think that we would let you go so easily? ”

”Then you leave me no choice. ” The Arkane replied, his soft, sleepy voice causing bones to tremble. He withdrew his hand and placed it atop the mask and intoned, ”In the name of fear I call upon you Horned Hound of Hell! ”

Dr. Harper, recognizing the danger dashed towards Dr. Agula, pushing every other body out of the way.

”Get down! ” she cried in her wake.

The room which contained the Arkane burst into mauveine light. Where the mask once floated now stood a large dog made of fire, with long horns atop his head. The creature growled with fangs bared, low and menacing; then howled, piercing the ears of all who heard it. The scientists clapped their hands over their offended appendages and shivered in fear.

”The Arkane possesses his Grimoires Athamè. ” Dr. Harper cried.

”Impossible. ” said Dr. Agula, ”There have been no recorded cases in which an Arkane can possess Athamè. ”

”Well make this the first; just take a look at the mana color. Also, Arkanes can summon. ”

She was right, as a general rule Arkanes only had green or blue mana; Grimoires only had purple or black and could summon creatures from the Beyond just as the Arkane had.

The Arkane took another step towards the glass, ”The second chance. Where is my Grimoire? ”

The horned hound howled, emphasizing his question.

Dr. Agula threw his hands forward and said, ”Please, we do not have her! ”

The Arkane did not say anything, instead, he pointed towards the glass. The horned hound dashed forward and broke the glass with his forepaws and let a howl which made the listeners cower in their positions. The fine shards showered over them, slicing their skin with slender slivers of ceramic.

Dr. Harper scrawled forward, scraping hands and knees upon the concrete, ”Please. ” she cried, ”Spare them, they have done no ill towards you! ”

”Oh, no ill you say? ” The Arcane crawled through the broken windows, seemingly impervious to the knife shards that littered the ground. ”Have you said that they meant no ill? They have butchered my hair, sliced my skin, gouged my eyes and spliced my cells. Yet, you do not mean me any harm? How dare you speak of such things! If I were to do the same to you, you would have called me a monster. You experiment on me like a thing, a thing which possesses naught a feeling nor a blessing. But you, don cause me ill. You take from me. You will take no longer. ”

He turned towards Dr. Harper and whispered, ”You, you who have spoken to me in my frozen slumber. You, you who have encouraged me. You, you who have known that I have been awake in my appeared sleep. You, you will be spared. ”

He raised his left hand and the wolf howled once again. ”Tremble. ” he whispered, ”Sleep in your waking fear. Be grateful that I am not a death Grimoire and your sleep will not be eternal. ”

In a swift motion, his left hand swiped down bringing with it the chime of bells.

”Sleep, ” he said.

The wolf howled, bringing with it the call of slumber. Everyone who heard it dropped to the floor; except Dr. Harper. The Arkane stepped up to Dr. Harper and placed his forefinger upon her right temple, then trailed it down towards the right corner of her mouth.

His thumb stroked the curve of her bottom lip and he said, ”I thank you. You gave me hope when all was lost. You will not sleep as the others do. ”

His proximity sent spiders of fear to run through her scalp, not to mention the massive fiery hound he had summoned. Her muscles were too frozen to respond and her eyes seemed to be glued to his face. Out of all of her co-workers, she had been the only one to manage to get a glimpse of his uncovered countenance. She doubted that she would ever forget it.

He could have been described as beautiful but his cheekbones were like knives on either side of a strong, straight nose. His emerald eyes glowed unnaturally in the darkroom and seemed to read her very mettle. His mouth twisted down into a frightening scowl lending his mien a demonic look.

Again he brought his left hand down as if striking a staff to the floor, ”Tremble. ” he intoned, ”Sleep in your wakening fear. ” With his right hand he placed atop the hounds head, the giant creature stilled, sitting upon his haunches and began to cough. The creatures massive sides heaved.

Dr. Harper could make out an oval shape being pushed from the hounds stomach. Dr. Harper thought that the object would get lodged in the creatures throat but after a final gag, a large golden egg the size of the hounds head sat at the feet of the Arkane.

The Arkane turned towards Dr. Harper and said, ”Take careful note, what you are about to witness you will never see again. Now pay attention, this is an Arkanes power, the power you sought after while keeping me immobile. ” He bent swiftly at the waist, picked up the massive egg and promptly smashed it over his knee.

Dr. Harper was expecting some more magical light, glitter and sparkles or maybe just egg yolk; but she certainly did not expect to see a woman, especially one who looked like a tree.

She gasped.

”This is a Dryad, keeper of the forest, under her care this facility will bloom and your workers shall sleep. ”

The small form of the Dryad rose, stretching long slim limbs. Her hair was moss, with bits of twigs and leaves flowing from random upwards bursts of growth. Her skin alternated between various hues of greens, yellows and browns which held the texture of bark. She wore slender vines twisting around her breasts and slung lightly around her narrow waist. They did nothing to conceal her womanly form but she did not seem to mind or notice. She walked around the Arkane, sizing him up and as she walked an assortment of grass and flowers bloomed beneath her feet.

”I am not just a Dryad, I am a spring Dryad but I doubt this human cares. ”

She sauntered around the Arkane once more before placing her hand on his robed sleeve. ”Why Arkane Vyncynt Solitude! Where is your Grimoire? How did you summon me? ”

The Arkane now known as Vyncynt grimaced and said, ”I don know, I can remember. ” Voice somber bringing tears to Dr. Harpers eyes. ”I summoned you through him. ” He pointed to the fiery hound that now lay napping at his feet.

”But he belongs to your Grimoire. ”

”I have her Athamè. ”

Instead of saying, impossible as Dr. Harper thought she would; the little Dryad crossed her arms over her chest and tisked.

”Now now Vyncynt, you have got yourself in a bind. How are you going to find your dear Grimoire if you have her Athamè? ”

”She has mine. At least, I still hope she does. I have been in this facility for twenty-six years, I can only hope. ”

”Well aren you a clever boy but you will find it harder to locate her this time. Humans have been mining mana from the biodomes our magic is becoming weak. Furthermore, Arkanes and Grimoires are disappearing, many have yet to wake. With the balance fading, Pendulum will fall. ” She turned towards Dr. Harper as if noticing her presence for the first time. ”Why does this human remain awake? Should I put her to sleep like the rest? ”

”No, she was the only one who knew I was fully conscious if not immobile during my captivity. She had also devised many escape plans, though unsuccessful, the sentiment is appreciated. She also attempted to kill me to be able to move my body. We do not die as humans do but it allowed me to access enough mana to burn the serum from my cells. ”

”Fair enough. Do as you will. ”

”What are you going to do with me? Though this facility is isolated it is still part of a bigger whole it will be investigated and I am sure they already have the Enforcement on their way. With the power outage of this magnitude, they will be here in force. ”

”Are you trying to make a threat? ” the Dryad asked.

”No, I am simply stating that if you want to leave then it must be soon, the longer you tarry the more chance you have of being caught. ”

”Silly human, non can enter here. ” The Dryad said, ”All who attempt with ill intent shall fall asleep. Keep that in mind human, should you attempt harm, the Arkane cannot protect you from my spell. ”

”Nor would I. ” he responded.

”In answer to your question, ” the Dryad replied, ”It is obvious that we aren going to anything to you. You have been free to leave. We are certainly not keeping you here against your will. If Vyncynt had his Grimoire, it might be a different story. Every single human here would probably be dead. ”

”You mean that he would kill me? ”

”Oh no no, Vyncynt Solitude would never do that but his Grimoire would. She is one of the most unforgiving and ruthless Grimoires I have ever met. ”

”Careful of whom you speak of Dryad Zypher. That is my Grimoire you insult. ”

”It was not an insult, Vyncynt. She is only that way to the ones who have injured her loved ones. Besides, she would not have killed anybody because you would have stopped her; but in all honesty, she would have killed a few before your command could stop her just to make a point. ”

”I understand the personality of my Grimoire far better than you. She has been mine for many centuries, you have known her for one. ”

”I love her as well, so I am going to give you a present. ” She pulled her hand through the air and plucked an apple so red that it appeared black.

”Is this. . . ”

”An apple that your Grimoire created. ”

”She can use mana. ”

”She did not use mana, she grew it with her own hands. She visits my daughters in the orchard biodome, she watered and tended their leaves. She spoke kind words of growth and love, she nurtured this apple with the love she holds for you, she may not remember you but her body and soul do. Use this and find her, she has placed her very essence into this fruit, eat it and find her. You said I don know her as you do, but I truly do. I was the one who heard her voice when you could not. ”

”Arkane, let me eat the fruit. I can find her faster. ” A new voice spoke, it was deep like a gong and caused the hair to stand upon Dr. Harpers neck.

”I cannot let you eat it all. Surely you cannot begrudge me my Grimoires essence especially when I have lived without her for so long. ”

”Of course not Arkane, I would only need a bite. Since she was my creator her essence is tied closely to mine. ”

It was then Dr. Harper realized that it was the hell hound speaking.

”You can speak!! ” she exclaimed.

”Of course he can. ” The Dryad Zypher spoke, ”You humans with your narrow vision. You see a magnificent creature being summoned, yet it cannot have intelligence. A dog in any form is still a dog, right? ”

”I am not a dog, I am a hell hound. ”

”To a human, you are still a dog, not a guardian to the Beyond, ” she replied.

”Enough! Time flows and I need to find my Grimoire. Here Demarious eat half of the apple, Ill take the rest. ”

”As you will. ”

The Arkane held out the apple, the flaming hound raised his massive head and with surprising delicacy placed his teeth around the fruit, chomping down. He had cut the fruit exactly in half, he tossed it up into the air with a sharp, whip motion of his head and caught it in his mouth.

The hound burst into mauveine flames and gave a satisfied belch. ”This will be more than enough. I thank you for your kind gift. ”

The Arkane raised the other half of the fruit to his mouth but Dr. Harper stopped him.

”You are going to put that in your mouth? ”

”Why not? ” he asked.

”It was just in the mouth of that. . . ”

”Dog? ” the dryad finished for her. ”Do you find it disgusting? ”

”Well, yes. ”

”At least you are honest, for a human. Let me clue you into the Beyond creatures. We never place our lips upon an object and share it with another being; that is reserved for lovers and close friends. What you find disgusting is the utmost act of trust between us. ”

During this exchange, the Arkane managed to take a large bite and swallow the contents. He gave a short cry and burst into mauveine flames as well.

He coughed a few times before saying, ”She is so strong, even without the use of mana. Here. ” He offered the rest of the apple to Demarious, ”My body is weak; I cannot consume any more, if I do it will become most difficult to shield my mana use. That apple had more essence than I expected. ”

The Hell Hound turns to Zypher and says, ”Without you and your daughters we would not have such a gift. I do not mind, my mother has always held you in high regard ” the wolf replied.

”I will not question you. ” The slender Dryad took the last fourth of the apple and consumed it in three solid bites. She then too, burst into purple flames.

”By the great Maker!! That was much more than I expected. Please give my regards to your Grimoire, she has given me a gift that I do not know if I can repay. ”

”You already have, ” both hound and Arkane replied in unison, ”You gave us a way to find her. ”

”I only ask this, please keep this facility in slumber until I find my Grimoire. I need her to be safe before the hunt begins. As soon as these men wake they will hunt me down and they have the means to do so. ”

”Of course, you have the power to summon me and you have the mana to command me, I could not disobey your wishes. ”

”I would never force you to perform an action which you were against. ”

”Oh, I understand. Will you grant me a boon? ”

”It depends. ”

”Give your Grimoire a kiss for me. ”

”She will love it. ”

”Humans approach Arkane, we must leave if Zypher is to perform magic, ” the hound interrupted.

The Arkane turned to Dr. Harper and plucked a single feather from the air.

”I will not forget the courage you displayed. If you have a need of me then use this feather and say, Arkane Vyncynt Solitude, I require your aid. You can only use this once so think carefully about what you want. ”

”I will delay them to the best of my abilities. ” She responded, taking the feather from his hand.

”Demarious lets fly. ”

”Yes sir. ”

There was no flash, no sparkles or gleaming light. The Arkane and the hound were simply gone.

”What happens now? ” Dr. Harper asked.

”Well since you are still here, you are going to help me. Oh, and you have no choice in the matter. We are going to keep the Enforcement off of Arkane Vyncynts trail, do you understand? ”

”Completely. ”

”Perfect! ”

With that said, the Dryad leads Dr. Harper by the arm and explained to her exactly what she was to do. Dr. Harper, fascinated with these creatures, readily agreed.

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