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A laughable, childish part of me, tried to convince me that what I was seeing wasn’t real. This was some kind of dream, some kind of joke. Robin Thundyil couldn’t die. He was an invincible sanctuary of flame and strength. He was going to stay with us, and protect us, he was going to take us back to Duna, and teach me, and help me find the answers I had always wanted. Something that powerful couldn’t just disappear from the world.

But I knew in a deeper part of me that that sort of hope was a fantasy. I knew what death looked like. I knew its emptiness pressing at my soul. Robin Thundyil was gone, along with all his warmth, and strength, and promises of better things to come. It was all gone. I felt my heart constricting—then my eyes fell on Daniel, and it cracked.

He stood frozen where he had stopped. His eyes were fixed on his father’s body, but his expression didn’t reflect the numb horror sinking its claws into me. He looked lost, uncomprehending, like he had just stumbled into a strange place and couldn’t quite process what he was seeing. Blinking, he took a cautious step forward as though afraid it might send him plummeting off the edge of the world.


Tentative fingers reached out and brushed the shaft of the spear protruding from his father’s chest.

“No…” His hand trembled as it trailed down the ice, down, down, his knees gave out under him, and he collapsed, his fingers tangling in the front of Robin’s shirt. “No, no, no, no!”

He fumbled at the base of the spear as though trying to convince himself that it wasn’t really there. “It’s going to be okay. You’re—you can fix this, we can fix it. You’re going to be okay. Just get up. Come on, Dad, get up!” He was screaming now. “Get up!”

There was no response.

“Get up…” Daniel’s voice crumpled to a plea as he touched his father’s face. “Please… Pita… please,” but it was useless. I could feel that Robin’s heart wasn’t beating. The blood had stopped in his veins. He was gone. With the body clutched in his arms, Daniel must have realized it too. A horrible, broken sound came out of him. He slumped forward to bury his face in Robin’s chest and burrowed there as his body began to shake with sobs.

I took a half step forward, still leaning on the van for support, wondering if I should go to him, when something made me stop. Creaking crystals were forming on the ground beneath my feet. As the ice spread over the pavement, freezing blades of grass to silver needles and crawling its way up the wreckage, a horrible realization hit me:

Robin’s killer was still here.

I had just opened my mouth to scream out a warning when a bone-chilling sound issued from the smoke around us. It was one voice—but with the hollow echo of a thousand, rasping against each other.

“Well, isn’t this a touching picture? I wasn’t expecting you, fledgling.”

Daniel stiffened, his eyes darting up to scan the smoke.

“All your father’s efforts to keep you safe and you repay him by throwing yourself into my path?” A tongue clicked disapprovingly somewhere in the dark. “That is cruel of you, little Firebird.”

“You’re the one,” Daniel hissed through clenched teeth. His words made clouds of steam in air that had suddenly gone from cold to frigid. “You killed him.”

“Of course I did.”

That was when Daniel’s hunched form began to glow—first ember-red, then orange, rising to a fevered gold as the heat around him intensified. Sparks prickled along his shoulders like rising hackles as his fists tightened in the front of his father’s shirt. “Who are you?”

“I am insulted.” The voice echoed through the mist. “I would have thought that more than obvious. Did he truly never tell you about me?”

“Come out.” Daniel stood slowly, his muscles coiled and crackling with energy. The tears on his face sizzled into steam as new ones boiled from his eyes. “Come out and face me.”

“Now, why would you want me to do that?”

“I’m going to kill you,” Daniel breathed in a frighteningly low voice that didn’t sound like it should be coming from his mouth.

“Foolish boy,” the voice jeered, mixing with the swirling mist. “You cannot kill a god.”

I’ll kill you!

And Daniel combusted, flames erupting from every inch of him to engulf his body. In an instant, the gray scene was transformed into a dazzling inferno of leaping orange, red, and gold. Fire flared from Daniel like unfurling wings, its feathery ripples of heat breaking over me where I stood thirty feet away, lifting up my hair and sweatshirt.

Then, with a wordless roar of rage, Daniel threw both arms forward. A burst of fire big enough to swallow a house exploded from his hands and I felt my mouth fall open. I had had no idea so much fire—so much power—could come out of one little person.

The wall of flames rolled into the surrounding fog, but died away without touching anything. As it disappeared, the fire around Daniel renewed, building in leaping pulses with his accelerating heartbeat, and he hurled another blast of flames out in the opposite direction. When that one did nothing but melt into the shadows as well, he uttered a scream of frustration and flung one last attack into the darkness. For a moment, I thought I saw an ice-like glint and the shadow of a human figure in the firelight, but it disappeared as the flames choked out.

“You harbor impressive nyama for a child your age, but your ability to control it is juvenile.” Still the hollow voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once. “Rage all you like. You cannot hope to hurt me with that unrefined anger.”

Daniel staggered, his fire guttering around him. He fell momentarily to one knee, catching himself with a hand on the ground and lurched upright again, panting smoke and sparks. The three successive attacks seemed to have taken a lot out of him. It couldn’t have been easy to produce a ball of flames thirty times his own size.

“But while we’re here,” the horrible voice crooned, “why don’t we see how quick you are on your feet?”

That was when I realized that the water molecules in the air were moving, converging on a single spot over the rubble. The temperature plummeted, swallowing up the last vestiges of Daniel’s heat. Then, within the blink of an eye, a hundred spears of ice hung suspended at the fringe of the fog, their needle-sharp tips all aimed directly at Daniel. With a sinking chill in the pit of my stomach, I realized that this was how Robin had met his end, impaled on the end of one of those spears.

In an instant, the ice shot forward like a volley of arrows released from a hundred invisible bowstrings. That was it, I thought. Daniel was dead. But I was underestimating my new friend. As the ice sped toward him, Daniel coiled into a crouch, his eyes focused, taking in the oncoming projectiles. Then, just as the first of the spears reached him, he jumped, flipping through the air faster than any acrobat. The storm of spears whistled past him on all sides, but he twisted in midair, avoiding every one of them, and landed unscathed when they had passed.

Less than a second after his feet had touched down, he was off again, this time plunging straight into the fog-smoke, his fist raised to strike—and he disappeared in the swirling mass. I saw flashes of him, just an outline, swinging fire-laced kicks and punches through the grayness with impossible speed. For a brief, flickering moment here and there, I thought I saw another, bigger shadow moving around Daniel, but it never stayed long enough for me to be sure it was really there.

Then there was a dull smacking sound and Daniel came hurtling back out of the fog to tumble over twenty feet of ice and rubble before finally skidding to a halt on the sidewalk. I hadn’t seen what had hit him, but the force must have been titanic because he lay unmoving on his back, seemingly stunned. An empty laugh sounded and I looked up from Daniel to see the shadow of a person hovering at the edge of the smoke, not clear enough that I could make out a face or clothes, but certainly there.

Daniel’s eyes were open. He was trying to move—I could see him panting through his teeth, his muscles writhing beneath the skin, straining until they shook—but some invisible force seemed to be holding him down.

“You hate me, Thundyil,” the faceless shadow said with a tremor in his voice that I could only describe as ecstatic. He raised a hand and I felt the water molecules moving in the air again. “You hate me, and fear me, don’t you?” He chuckled, a dark gleeful sound, and the water molecules converged, forming a six-foot spear of ice. The weapon hovered over Daniel, its tip pointed straight between his widening eyes. “Don’t you?”

Daniel was going to die, I realized numbly. My friend, my first real friend, was going to die unless someone did something—and I was the only someone around.

Panic twisted into a knot in my chest, rooting me to the spot. If I tried to help, I would draw attention to myself and probably end up dead too. If I did nothing, Daniel was going to die and it was going to be my fault. The two thoughts crashed, crackling into each other like they were trying to tear a fault line down the center of my chest. The place where they met became a strain of pure energy.

The ice spear lifted in slow motion, winding back for the lethal blow. I quaked as the frenzy of energy swelled like floodwater rolling up against a weak dam. Just as I felt like I was about to explode, my eyes focused in on Daniel where he lay broken among the pieces of splintered wood and ice. There was a cut above his brow. Blood trickled from it, bright red against the gray all around him—

And the dam broke.

Raw energy stampeded out of my chest to scream through my veins and thunder in my bones.

Without my brain telling them to, my hands snapped forward, latching onto the van in front of me. The moment my skin came into contact with the metal, the energy thrummed from my fingers into the steel body of the car, making it part of me. With an involuntary jerk, my grip on the van tightened, my fingers curling in to crunch the metal like it was tinfoil.

I barely felt what should have been excruciating pain in my hands and shoulders as I hoisted the vehicle off the ground. I don’t remember pushing it—all I registered was the jolt of all the energy bursting out of me—but I must have given the vehicle one spectacular shove because it shot from my hands like a bullet from a gun, smashing through the ice spear straight into the shadowy man.

There was a crash as the van connected with its target, but didn’t wait around to assess the damage. Still riding the bizarre surge of energy that had overtaken me, I bounded across the piles of debris to Daniel. Released from whatever force had been holding him in place, he had rolled onto his hands and knees.

“Come on!” I hauled him to his feet, only vaguely aware of how cold his body felt against mine. I dragged him in the direction of the street, intent on running somewhere, anywhere, just away from here.

“No, no.” Daniel grabbed my arm weakly—well, weakly for him—and pulled me in the opposite direction. “This way. Get to the garage.” His voice was hoarse, but insistent. “Come on!”

“Why?” Somehow, I didn’t feel like the garage was going to offer much protection against an attacker who had just leveled a house.

“Just do it!” He yanked my arm more forcefully and I found myself stumbling after him towards the three-car garage. As we scrambled over the piles of broken wood, cement, and drywall, I realized that Daniel was moving strangely. He was clumsy, as though he hadn’t quite regained control of his limbs. We had just reached the side door of the garage when an icy blast of wind slammed into us, knocking us both off our feet.

I cried out as I fell on jagged wood and felt it drive splinters into my arms.

“A white child.” The hollow voice drifted out of nowhere and everywhere as I got to my hands and knees. “An unusually powerful white child. If this is another assassination attempt, I am impressed. I didn’t know the scum had a means of following me here. Well, rebel or not, I’d best eliminate you, hadn’t I?”

I looked up to see the shadow of a man—or god, or monster, or whatever he was—flowing toward us out of the smoke.

“Goodbye, little Hadean.” A spear of ice formed before him, pointing at my chest. I couldn’t move. “And consider this an honor. Few of your people get to die by the hand of their Lord.”


In the same moment the spear shot forward, Daniel leapt sideways, flinging himself in front of me. Incredibly, he managed to meet the side of the spear with his forearm and a burst of flames. The ice shattered against his arm, knocking him backwards into me and sending its pieces glinting in every direction. A sharp pain told me that some of them had found my leg as Daniel fell against me. He was hurt. I could tell by the way he crumpled.

“Daniel?” I gasped, my voice little more than a shivering whisper. My mouth barely worked, I was shaking so badly. “Daniel?”

The man clicked his tongue again. “That was unnecessary, Thundyil.”

My hold tightened on Daniel as I watched another spear forming. This couldn’t be where it ended. I still needed to see Duna, to find answers about my powers. God. I needed to hug my mother again—

Then the darkness came in.

It didn’t fall like normal darkness; it swept in like a wave, swallowing up everything more than a few feet in front of Daniel and me in absolute blackness, leaving the garage behind us and everything to either side of us perfectly visible. It was surreal, as though the entire scene was the page of a picture book and someone had just spilled a bottle of ink across it.

I blinked, confused. In the reality I knew, this just wasn’t possible, theonite powers or none. Somewhere in the blackness, I thought I heard someone utter a gasp of surprise, but I didn’t stick around to observe any more. Standing up, I dragged a limp Daniel to his feet, barely registering the pain in my body and the blood seeping from my fingers. He was heavy, but I didn’t let that slow me down as I heaved his half-limp form to the garage door.

My hands shook and slid off the doorknob, so I slammed my shoulder into the wood as hard as I could. The door broke off its hinges, allowing us to lunge inside. An automatic light that was surprisingly still functional flickered on in welcome, illuminating Daniel for me as he slumped back against the garage wall, panting.

“Th-thanks,” he said.

“Yeah.” I exhaled a nervous laugh. “No problem.”

“What…” He twisted around gingerly to look out at the darkness that still consumed the world outside. “What was that?”

“I don’t know. I thought—Oh my god!” My eyes had just drifted from Daniel’s face to the rest of him, and it was terrible! There were all kinds of little pieces of ice sticking out of his right arm, not to mention the alarmingly large one lodged in his left shoulder, and there was blood all over him! “Y-you’re…” I reached for him, but paused short of taking his arm, afraid of touching something and making it worse. “You’re bleeding!” I gasped unhelpfully.

“I’m fine.” Daniel staggered over to a table in the corner of the garage, dripping blood all over the floor as he went. “We have to get out of here.”

“Y-yeah, I know, but—how?”

“With this,” Daniel picked up what appeared to be a remote control in his left hand—his right didn’t seem to be in working condition—pointed it at the empty space in the center of the garage and hit one of the buttons. There was a rhythmic pinging noise and a gleaming red shape shimmered into existence before my disbelieving eyes.

Cloaking device deactivated,” an automated voice announced pleasantly as my jaw dropped.

“Th-that’s… Is that—”

“The trans-dimensional space pod,” Daniel explained hastily. “This is our way out of here.”

When Daniel and Robin had talked about their ‘space pod,’ I had imagined a featureless white and gray thing like the spacecraft in most sci-fi movies. I hadn’t thought it would be beautiful. The vessel was a perfect sphere, about eight feet in diameter, made of the same shining, sturdy glass as the info-com device. The body of the pod was a brilliant crimson, with a transparent dome set over a two-seated interior that looked like the front seat of a nice car. A belt of angular black and white designs encircled the sphere, giving it a tribal, almost alien look.

“Okay, now open.” Daniel fumbled with the remote and pressed another button.

Cloaking device deactivated,” the automated voice repeated as I sensed the wind picking up outside.

“Yeah, I know!” Daniel growled, stabbing at the button again. “I said ‘open!’

Cloaking device deactivated.”

“Oh, shut up!” Flinging the remote aside, Daniel ran to the pod itself to punch a hand-sized button situated beside the outline of what I assumed was the door.

“Uh, Daniel?” I said as hail began battering the garage roof and the walls creaked under the force of the wind. Within moments, I could hear the plink of nails hitting the floor as they burst from the woodwork. The garage was being torn apart around us!

“Daniel!” I screamed, but he didn’t need me to tell him to panic.

Open!” There were fresh tears in his eyes as he slammed a fist into the button for the dozenth time. “Open, langana!”

As the garage door ripped off in a deafening groan of grating metal and breaking wood, Daniel gave up on the button altogether and began prying frantically at the door itself.

“Open!” He kicked at the pod. “You stupid piece of—oww!” He fell back, clutching his toe. “Na-Nyaare!”

He started towards the pod door for another attack, but before he got there, the hail rushed in on us. I ducked and covered my head as the stinging surge slammed into my body, nearly knocking me to the floor. Staggering backwards, I felt my back bump into the pod’s curved exterior. I slumped against it, covering my face as ice bit into me from all directions. Somewhere in the cacophony I felt Daniel fall back against the pod beside me.

Cloaking device deactivated,” the automated voice reassured us.

“Shut up!” Daniel roared.

He might have shouted something else, but it was lost in an agonized chorus of splintering wood and grating metal as the garage was torn to pieces around us. The horrible sound was the last thing I remembered before a beam slammed into the side of my head. For a moment, the whole world pounded with pain.

Then the blackness swallowed me.


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